During a recent visit to Portland, Oregon, I interviewed Jason Leivian, who runs Floating World Comics, one of the best comic book shops you could hope for. This is a comic book shop taken up to the level of a curatorial experience with everything neatly organized in different categories.
Floating World Comics holds the distinction of being one of few comic book shops that also functions as a publisher. During this interview, my goal was to bring out all that is special about Floating World Comics, and Jason Leivian proved to be a most excellent host. I hope you enjoy the video interview below:
I’ve come back with some choice titles published by FWC and we will be taking a look at them in the coming days.
When in Portland, or whenever you wish to find something exceptional in comics online, be sure to visit Floating World Comics.
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.
Mastering the “Uncomfortable Smile.” Who knew that was a thing. Apparently, it is a very big thing among cartoonist Sam Spina and his friends. Seriously, Spina is masterful at spinning gold from ephemera. It’s an art form that carries over to all kinds of storytelling. So, it makes total sense that Spina could transfer the skills he honed as a cartoonist and use them as a storyboard artist for Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show.” Spina has a golden touch which you can enjoy in his latest collection of diary comics, “Spinadoodles #8: Mooz Boosh,” available at Kilgore Books.
The whole page about uncomfortable smiles.
The whole page about uncomfortable smiles, entitled, “It’s My Sad Eyes,” is fun to read and indicative of what you’ll find here. Spina is recalling a moment from a trip to Arizona. The locale is mentioned simply to add a little flavor. The focus is on the interactions between friends. Spina uses a very casual approach which welcomes the reader. Everything feels like it is accessible and evoking an easy-going conversation. Nothing appears to be overworked. The characters are drawn, not in a slapdash manner as much as a slapdash style. That’s a huge difference. Less careful, less thoughtful, and less skilled cartoonists tend to lean too heavily upon an artistic sensibility that would embrace any mark on the page. In fact, any mark on a page is not golden. There are standards to this thing and cartoonists that create comics at the level of a six-year-old seeking praise from grandma are doing themselves a disservice. Just saying.
Diary comics actually have a long history, inextricably linked to independent comics. And it is John Porcellino’s ongoing zine, “King-Cat Comics and Stories” (May 1989 – present), that casts quite a long shadow. I think there is room for everyone under the comics tent–and I know a lot of cartoonists are influenced by John P’s approach, be it the pared-down artwork, the spare compositions, right down to the self-deprecating humor–but it often does not quite work in other hands. The best one can do is to honor what he’s established and add to it. I think Sam Spina falls within the group of cartoonists that are not just coasting along but creating compelling work.
SPINADOODLES 8: MOOZ BOOSH
Sam Spina is having fun and he has taken the time to give his comics a distinctive charm and sparkle. His humor is not particularly satirical as much as it is in keeping with the slice-of-life tradition of much of alt-comics. Within alt-comics circles, authenticity is highly regarded although not always followed through in practice. Spina’s work has a refreshing honesty and irreverence that, at its best, can rise above anything trendy and cute and just be plain ole good storytelling.
I love a good comix jam, either as a group, a pair, or solo. Each has its own dynamic. While the work could remain private, the comix jam is basically going on with the assumption that you are putting yourself out there. If I do a 24-hour comics jam all by myself, I do it with the incentive that I’m going to show it. When in a group, you have that added delicious tension of rivalry mixed with a sense of community. As a pair, it can be like a sexy game of chess, the back and forth motion exploding into an exquisite corpse.
Pages from Lady Beaver & Steve Waldinger (L) and Meesimo (R)
I’ve been looking over a recent issue of a groovy comix jam anthology, MELT-THOLOGY, that comes out monthly by Meltdown Comics. Here you will find a bit of everything: loopy stuff like the work of Austin James with his vulvic form sampling various phallic forms; or quirky domestic observation like the work of Joan Varitek with her hurried mom desperately trying to keep up with her baby’s progress through pics stored on a smartphone.
“Spider Bouncer” by Mike Levine & Evan Lewis
Basically, with this format, each participant gets one page and that can be used for a one-panel gag, an illustration, or a multi-panel. A one-panel gag can be the most daunting as the odds are against success. Matt Elkins does a good job with a cyclops wearing one eyeglass and being called a “two-eyes” by some callous fools. Cory Fuller‘s illustration of two kids hanging out has a nice fun vibe. And “Spider Bouncer,” by Mike Levine and Evan Lewis, is a tight, well-paced, and spot on multi-panel.
If you’re a local cartoonist, you’ll definitely want to check this out and give it a try. It is held on the third Tuesday of each month. For more details, visit our friends at Meltdown Comics right here.
Miss Lasko-Gross has been creating comics since high school. A collection celebrating 20 years of her work, “Miss Lasko-Gross: Some Short Stories 1994-2014,” is available on comiXology. She has been published by Fantagraphics Books, A MESS OF EVERYTHING and the YALSA nominated ESCAPE FROM “SPECIAL.” Now, Lasko-Gross embarks on another storytelling adventure, HENNI, published by Z2 Comics, a new series of stories about rebellion.
HENNI is a young female in a fanciful world. She is an anthropomorphic character, a cat-like creature. In the same spirit as Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, and Jim Woodring, this is a strange, yet familiar world that Lasko-Gross has created. It’s a place that demands obedience and will not tolerate any questions. Well, Henni has a lot of questions to ask. She tries to maintain a low profile but she also knows that there’s a whole other world beyond her homeland’s gates and she is going to venture out. She does. And so Henni’s adventure begins.
It was a pleasure to get to chat with Lasko-Gross. We begin with thoughts on how her past work flows into her current work. We discuss the process of making comics. We talk about what it’s like to work alongside a spouse who is also an accomplished cartoonist, her husband, Kevin Colden (FISHTOWN; I RULE THE NIGHT). We also talk about her inclusion in the traveling exhibit, “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women.” And we talk about working with the boutique graphic novel publisher, Z2.
Listen to the podcast interview right here:
“Henni” is a 168-page graphic novel and will be available in comic shops on January 6, 2015 and in bookstores on January 20. For more details, you’ll definitely want to visit Z2 Comics right here. Formerly known as Zip Comics, the newly launched Z2 Comics is run by Josh Frankel and is the place to find some of the most exciting comics available, including the work of Paul Pope and Dean Haspiel.
It was a hive of activity at Washington Hall in Seattle, on November 15, 2014 for the annual Short Run Seattle Comix & Art Festival. Comic arts festivals continue to gain ground as interest and demand grows for independent comics. Here in Seattle, Short Run has proven to be the leading venue to connect creators with the public. Now in its third year, the festival offers a dazzling selection of work by some of the best talents in the U.S. and beyond.
John Porcellino, Short Run, 15 November 2014
I had the pleasure of chatting with Short Run’s Guest of Honor, John Porcellino, and he was quite gracious. My partner, Jennifer Daydreamer, and I had gotten to see an advance copy of the documentary on his life and career, “Root Hog or Die.” Jennifer asked if it had been planned to have the documentary and John’s new book, “Hospital Suite,” come out at the same time. And John explained that the documentary had been years in the making and it was a wonderful coincidence to have these two separate projects join together into a tour. “The documentary is an extension of the book,” said John. I’d go farther to say it’s an extension of King-Cat Comics, as if it took on another life as a film. Well, more to talk about at a later date. I asked John for some recommendations from his Spit and a Half distribution catalog and I’ll be reviewing them shortly.
Mark Campos, Short Run, 15 November 2014
Among other friends we got to catch up with were Mark Campos and David Lasky, both longtime Seattle cartoonists. I have recent work by Mark that I’ll be sharing with you soon too.
David Lasky, Short Run, 15 November 2014
David Lasky, as many of you know, is the co-author, with Frank M. Young, of “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.” I saw that the book was part of a series of Short Run raffle items. Well, you don’t need to enter a raffle to get your copy of this unique history of the legendary country music icons. You can find it right here.
From “Skulptura?” by Pat Moriarity
I also got a fun treat by another beloved Pacific Northwest cartoonist, Pat Moriarity. He had told me about a limited edition mini-comic he had created just for this year’s Short Run. In “Skulptura?” an artist attempts to find his muse. And I also got to chat with Eroyn Franklin, organizer of Short Run, with Kelly Froh and Janice Headley. She was a pleasure to talk with. I asked her about her upcoming comic, “Dirt Bag.” And it is coming along nicely. There was a preview at Short Run that I missed finding. I also should have gotten there early as the early birds got a goodie bag of comix. Well, maybe next year.
In closing, what can I say, Short Run was a rousing success. If you’re in Seattle this time next year, make plans to attend. It’s a comix and art festival and a whole lot more as you’ll see on their site.
Do not go gentle into that good night. Why should you? And don’t just rage. Get yourself a whole new body like in Pete Toms‘s comic, “The Dupe,” in the latest (special 3D) issue of Study Group Magazine. This piece certainly sets the tone and then some for a magazine full of ebullient work featuring in-depth essays, interviews, and a variety of work by talented cartoonists who tend toward the underground. Come in and sample everything and be sure not to miss the 3D because it is out of this world.
Here is a quick conversation with Farel Dalrymple just as he was setting up to fly out to Bethesda, Maryland for the annual Small Press Expo.
He will be there in support of his new graphic novel, “The Wrenchies.” We talk a bit about the dream logic and overall feeling of spontaneity and exuberance found throughout the pages of this most remarkable book.
I have followed many an artist’s career and this is clearly Farel Dalrymple’s time. With The Wrenchies, he has brought together elements he’s been working with over years into a masterful panorama.
If you’re in or near Bethesda this weekend, you will definitely want to visit SPX. And, if you’re in the DC area, visit Politics and Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse that Sunday, at 5 p.m., for a panel discussion discussing graphic novels with a crossover appeal between young adults and adults moderated by Heidi MacDonald. The featured cartoonists are Farel Dalrymple; Gareth Hinds (Romeo & Juliet); and Jim Rugg (Street Angel).
Click the link below to listen to the podcast interview:
Joel Craig loves a challenge. He is pursuing three of them: acting, nursing, and cartooning. Yes, if you’re serious about each of these professions, they can all take a lot out of you. And they can all definitely give back to you. WELCOME TO NURSING HELL0, Joel Craig’s recently released graphic memoir, is a very funny and insightful collection of comics. You can read my review here. He’s in the thick of it, living and working in Los Angeles and navigating a busy life.
How do we connect? We do it, or try to do it, in a variety a ways. It’s not always easy but it’s far better than its opposite, to disconnect. I aspire to connect with you. I make this preface because I am genuinely inspired by my latest subject for review, Joel Craig’s graphic memoir, WELCOME TO NURSING HELLo.