Posts Tagged ‘TCAF’

Jeet, Seth, Evan and a Mountain of Comics


Thursday, May 13, 2010

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Last Sunday at TCAF (aka the best comics festival in North America) I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Jeet Heer, Seth and Evan Dorkin on the ins and outs of editing/designing/publishing/consuming comics history. It begins with Evan lamenting the lack of proper old radio fandom. Note: I forgot to ask one crucial question: Complete editions vs. “Best of” editions. Not to late to chime in, gents. Anyhow, audio is below. Enjoy.


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Paul Pope and Dash Shaw


Thursday, May 13, 2010

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Pulphope versus Darth Shaw.

Robin McConnell as Emperor, er, moderator. From TCAF 2010.

Listen to all the pulse pounding action over at Inkstuds.

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Dan ‘n’ Dash and PBox at TCAF


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

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Artist's rendition of current state of mind of subject: Nadel. TCAF be warned.

Dash and I will be rolling into Toronto’s TCAF this weekend, May 8 and 9, with a full slate of programming and, natch, a full assortment of PictureBox books covering two tables. I’ll also be signing and selling Art in Time for all you history buffs out there. Come by the booth, go see Dash at his signings, and come see us both jabber on about comics.

Spotlight: Dan Nadel’s Art in Time
Saturday, May 8th, 10:30 – 11:15am, Learning Center 1

Publisher and comics historian Dan Nadel will discuss and show images from his new book, Art in Time, while addressing how comics history gets constructed and how the theme of adventure in comics has expanded and contracted over the years. Artists discussed will include H.G. Peter, Willy Mendes, Sharon Rudahl, Jack Kirby, Bill Everett.

-Spotlight: Paul Pope and Dash Shaw
Saturday May 8th, 12:00-1:00pm, The Pilot

TCAF Featured Guests Paul Pope and Dash Shaw are two of the most exciting creators in comics, mixing their influences and innovations to create groundbreaking work. Now Inkstuds Radio/Podcast host Robin McConnell will moderate a conversation between these two creators about the role that influences play in creating comics, ranging from traditional comics to film and music and from classical to contemporary works. This also includes a discussion of education, some key points in creating your own vision in comics, and an examination of how to make influences work and finding out where they lead you.

-Indie Comics Japan: Manga Outside the Mainstream
Saturday, May 8th, 1:45 – 2:45pm, Learning Center 1

Comics from Japan are called “manga”, and the very word inspires a very particular idea of style and presentation in the minds of many readers. But manga is just the Japanese word for comics, and the styles, presentations, and ideas contained within that medium are as interesting and diverse as the sorts of comics being produced in Europe or North America. Join publisher Dan Nadel of PictureBox Inc., translator/production coordinator Ryan Sands, Fanfare/Ponent-Mon and representative Deb Aoki, translator Jocelyene Allen, and moderator Christopher Butcher to discuss the many treasures manga has to offer North American readers!

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Tatsumi in Toronto


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

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By special to CC: Chris Randle

There were plenty of happenings to note at this year’s TCAF – the Doug Wright awards, Frank Santoro gracing my sketchbook with Jah Batman, the relentless growth of the Scott Pilgrim massive – but the most purely joyful was seeing a delighted Yoshihiro Tatsumi sit before fans lined up out through the door. “Great strip rescued from moldering obscurity” is a familiar comics story by now, yet too many of those cartoonists died amidst poverty or just indifference, unable to enjoy their own reclamation. Tatsumi can, and clearly does. Grim gutter chronicles like Good-Bye, A Drifting Life’s rueful social history: not the most intuitive candidates for new multiple-language readerships, but deserving ones.

I spoke to Mr. Tatsumi the day before TCAF began, on a high floor of a swanky hotel. He was meeting journalists all afternoon in their restaurant. It was a gorgeous day, summer’s first; Tatsumi’s wife spent most of our interview gazing down at the unbroken blue of Lake Ontario below. (They are a stylish and completely adorable couple.) We had this conversation as an ice cream sundae slowly liquefied around his spoon. Tatsumi laughed more than I expected, and sometimes he would stress a point by making violent gestures towards his chest, as if stabbing himself through the heart. Can the highlight of your festival precede the actual event?

(I owe a few people thanks and my gratitude for their help with this interview. To D&Q’s Peggy Burns, who arranged it, remaining unflappable even when a series of minor disasters made some fuckup writer late; to ace translator Jocelyn, who shadowed our words on the fly; and to Mr. Tatsumi, who gave me his time. Sheila Heti and Jeet Heer made separate assists during the long process of getting this thing published somewhere and I owe them both drinks.) — Chris Randle


Chris Randle: A Drifting Life is about the formation of gekiga, but I’m wondering how you would characterize the style of the book itself.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi: In Japan everything’s always read the opposite of here, so I think about the design as two pages, and if everything will be reversed I think about that before I design – of course [the individual panels] as well, but I want to have a balance to the whole thing. When it flips I’m uneasy about it, but there’s no way around that.

[The translator wonders if that was precisely what I wanted to ask about, and I clarify that I meant how Tatsumi would characterize the artistic style of A Drifting Life in comparison with the gekiga period it’s about.]

YT: When I was writing back at that time – I was really enthusiastic, I had a lot of passion when I was drawing gekiga. But now gekiga and manga are [the same thing], so even if you draw gekiga, it’s just called manga. Comparing my passion with that time… I was much more passionate then.

CR: I interviewed Adrian [Tomine] a week or so or ago, and he thought – to him the book has a “symphonic” quality, because it moves back and forth from the stylized sections about you and your collaborators to these photo-realistic depictions of Japanese history and pop culture at that time. And I’m just wondering if this structure was consciously planned out beforehand…

YT: There’s 48 [chapters] in total, so you think of those and then you go into detail and write them. I thought about 60 or 70 different sections, but the circumstances of the [Japanese] company that is publishing it, as a serial – they stopped it in the middle. There’s still 15 or 20 more stories. I guess you don’t realize that it was stopped halfway through…

CR: No, I had no idea.

YT: The last two or three chapters are really rushed-through. I was forced to end it there. In any case, I’m going to write the rest of it, so…

CR: One part that I thought was really interesting in the book was your mention of negative news coverage about what the young artists were drawing – the “vulgar manga.” Could you describe that in more detail?

YT: The parents were really up in arms about these bad books. Manga at that time was different than it is now. It was friendly manga, so little kids could read it too… On the page you have the same number of panels, the people move from left to right and they’re all the same size and it all looks the same on the page… There was no movement or anything like that. We took inspiration from movies, doing zoom shots or close-ups. Using the camera. We wanted to use these techniques in manga, really violent movement. We were trying to move the panels in a realistic kind of way, to make work without lies, true work. In work before, for example, if a samurai cuts someone­-

CR: There’s that great line from the book: “If a person is stabbed, they bleed.”

YT: Even if a person’s head was cut off and fell to the ground there was no blood, nothing came out. Like an onion [Tatsumi chuckles]. Even if the head was separated from the body it looked like the head was still alive… You couldn’t really say that would have a bad influence on kids. So we came in and took a bat to the whole thing. We did more realistic work, more photographic almost. In Tezuka Osamu’s work animals speak, and people answer them. I think that’s probably the influence of Walt Disney, but when we wrote mysteries it’s no good if animals are talking. If a dog watches a murder or something and you know that the killer escapes – if the dog says “oh hey, that’s the murderer,” that’s not really a good thing. So we didn’t draw things like that. We drew realistic things, like the strong feelings of happiness or sadness that people have. Close-ups on the main character to really show their anger – when you’re looking from far away there’s not really a lot of power in that angle. When you’re drawing a work like that, of course you’re going to see blood. If you compare that manga with the children’s manga up to that point, they just couldn’t forgive – they wouldn’t accept that kind of manga. The [parent-teacher associations] were like, “let’s just not buy it.” A lot of them sprung up all over Japan to boycott the work.

CR: That’s fascinating to me, because this was only a couple of years after the exact same thing essentially happened in the U.S., with parents and politicians and other figures in society trying to ban or boycott violent crime comics.

YT: Yeah, it was the same thing.

CR: You mentioned Tezuka, and there’s a few times in the book where he’s depicted as an icon. Obviously he was a great influence on you, but I’m wondering why you made that specific choice to depict him this way – there’s the silhouette on the train at the start of the book, and then he’s sort of shown floating above the sea near the end.

YT: That was how I felt about Tezuka at that time. I mean, when I was a kid I thought of him about on the same level as God. I really wanted to draw that honestly. Right now I don’t think many young people are buying Tezuka’s work in Japan, but at that time… he had a halo, and lights came off of him…

CR: To me, reading later Tezuka books like MW or Apollo’s Song and comparing them to his earlier work, it seems he became influenced by the new style you and others were already exploring. Do you agree with that? It’s almost as if he internalized the critique…

YT: We were imitating Tezuka when we became mangaka. [Then we created] what became gekiga, and Tezuka Osamu took an interest in it. Our work was all called “dramatic pictures,” he knew that, and kind of got angry, maybe? [Tatsumi laughs]. He fell down the stairs a little bit, he came down a few rungs… I think there was definitely some influence from us, but when we met with Tezuka and talked with him he would say, “Oh no, my work’s definitely not gekiga, it’s definitely manga.” But before we lost him [Tezuka died of cancer in 1989], when we talked to him, he would say: “Maybe my work is getting a little closer to gekiga, you never know.” … I really wanted him to just keep drawing manga no matter what. Gekiga was a world of – it was us, who were regular crazy people, and to have Tezuka Osamu come into that world… I didn’t really want that.

CR: Later on, after the events that you depict in A Drifting Life, you worked with a studio of assistants…Do you think you were a good teacher, or at least a good boss?

YT: I was a pretty selfish boss. I wasn’t really a good boss. If you use an assistant it stops being your own pictures, right? It’s not all your work anymore. Part of it is your work. So when you publish that… it’s hard for me. I always drew all the characters, and then the backgrounds, the details, the extra stuff – drawing the squares for the panels, shading, erasing the pencil marks – all those kinds of things, I had five assistants doing that. If you didn’t have five assistants you couldn’t get magazine serial work, because you had a deadline every week. You had to put out at least 30 pages a week. With just one person, with just yourself, it would be impossible, you just couldn’t work. So even though I had some people who didn’t really do a lot of work, I had five people.

CR: Are you still friendly with any of the collaborators or peers from those days, like Matsumoto or Takao Saito?

YT: At first there were seven of us, and then we had eight. And of those people now I’m really good friends with four of them. The other two don’t draw gekiga anymore, they’re doing different work. So there’s only two of us now that are doing gekiga, me and Saito Takao.

CR: Some of these artists are still almost totally unknown here, and perhaps they’ve been forgotten even in Japan as well. Are there any books or works that you really think should be rediscovered and published here, like yours was?

YT: I don’t really read anything recently, for some dozens of years I haven’t been reading anything…Japanese manga, we’re not really all together, we kind of keep to ourselves. This might sound a bit snotty, but – I read something like Golgo 13 and I’m maybe ten pages into it and I start thinking of something else, my thoughts just go somewhere else. It’s kind of a bother, so I just don’t read it. It’s not just Golgo 13 but anything that’s popular, you know? Even if I read it it just doesn’t go in my head. There’s a big gap between me and the younger artists, in terms of age, so even if I do read someone’s work I don’t feel it. I’m not moved by it. I’m sorry I have to say that, but…

CR: No, that’s okay. Is there a conscious way you approach political content in your art? Like the Hiroshima story from Good-Bye, or the anti-American protests at the end of A Drifting Life… are they just part of society’s broader story?

YT: In Japan, with politics and politicians there’s really nothing I personally can do, but what I can do – political unrest or the lives of the citizens, I’d like to express that somehow. When I was writing about Hiroshima in that story [“Hell”], I was broke forever, and everyone around me was broke. I was angry about that, you know? Japan has become such a rich country, and here we are, so why aren’t the politicians taking that extra money and giving it to us, giving it to the citizens? It’s the same now in Japan. It doesn’t change. My own dissatisfaction, my frustration, I put that into my work. At the time I wrote “Hell” I always worked for magazines, so I could write freely like that. “Hell” was written for Japanese Playboy, in fact. No one would publish that kind of manga, so it was kind of a surprise that even Playboy would give me work. I think I’ve left behind some really good work. I’d like to just keep writing like a novelist, keep writing for as long as I can. I’m pretty satisfied.

CR: I’ve heard that you’re already working on the next volume of your memoir and have a few hundred pages done, so I assume you’ll be doing that for the foreseeable future, but I’m wondering if there’s any books from before, after or during your gekiga period that you’d like to see reprinted… I want to see the one with the giant snakes.

YT: I have so many. If you put my short stories and my longer volumes together, I’ve written about a thousand pieces. I’d like to [recover] as many of them as possible. I plan on writing the continuation of A Drifting Life within the near future. If I don’t do it soon – I don’t have that much life left, you know? [Tatsumi laughs.] I gotta do it as soon as possible.

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Revisiting the 2009 TCAF Mainstream/Alternative Comics Panel


Sunday, October 4, 2009

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Robin at Inkstuds was kind enough to have the TCAF panel Frank, Robin, Robert Dayton, Dustin Harbin and I participated in transcribed by Squally Showers. He sent me the transcription a few weeks ago and I finally got around to reading it.

Frankly, I thought this panel sucked, due to nobody in particular’s fault. But I think most panels are meandering and boring despite having intelligent moderators and participants. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, I’m just going to excerpt sections of it here and intersperse it with some new commentary.

I wasn’t sure what the point of the panel was and, reading the transcription now, I don’t think anybody knew what the point was. If the point was to hear Frank speak enthusiastically about Kirby and Steranko, it succeeded and that’s definitely an enjoyable, worthy reason to attend a panel. No joke.

But I fear that the panel was interpreted as a statement that “alternative” cartoonists having affection for “mainstream” comics is noteworthy or unusual or “new” somehow. It’s not. “Alternative” cartoonists bemoaning the abundance of boring, mundane mostly-autobio work is a false feeling to me. There are a lot of autobio “real life” stories, but they’ve always been dwarfed by the pseudo-“mainstream” genre work, even outside of Marvel and DC. Look at Oni Press and Slave Labor Graphics and Antarctic Press and Caliber Comics and Tundra and on and on. Look at the Hernandez Brothers. Look at the wave of alternative comics in the nineties… Zot (which somehow looks both really dated and also pre-Tezuka reprint boom ahead-of-its-time), Bone, Kabuki (don’t forget that Scarab spin-off series!), Madman, THB (fucking Escapo! still lookin good a decade later,) etc.

When I was a student at SVA in the early ’00s I was mostly hanging out with the Meathaus guys and almost all of them were doing “alternative” sci-fi/fantasy/horror/whatever genre comics. Some later did more “alternative”-leaning books for DC or Vertigo. Tomer Hanuka did Bipolar (the last issue of which was essentially a Bizzaro World Aquaman story) and later did the Midnight Mass covers for Vertigo. And, of course, Farel Dalrymple did the great Omega Man the Unknown series after doing his solo, surreal Pop Gun War series that, aesthetically, is in the post-Marvel House Style world similar to Jim Rugg (Street Angel from Slave Labor). Even Thomas Herpich’s (who I adore) second book was mostly science fiction short stories. Meanwhile the amerimanga artists at Tokyopop and Oni were doing sci-fi/romance/fantasy comics.

There’s been wave after wave of “alternative” comics with ties to “mainstream” comics from the ’80s to today, unaffected by some horrible glut of boring real-life comics that people complain about. I’m not saying that those books don’t exist (they do). I’m saying that I don’t think there’s been a point where one genre was threatening to extinguish the other.

Frank Santoro: Is everyone … I’m going to talk as if everybody knows what I‘m talking about. If you don’t know what I‘m talking about, please interject at any time. But basically, it’s like Kirby of course created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, but then in the ‘70s, when he went back to Marvel, he was doing these really crazy books like 2001, which was essentially based on the movie. But by issue 5 it had nothing to do with the movie. [laughter] What’s really interesting about this comic is … can you scroll ahead a couple of things … it starts off as this crazy battle and—couple of more?—and he goes to The Source which is, if you remember 2001, the black monolith. I call it The Source. [Robin laughs] Can you scroll ahead one more time? He’s coming out of this battle—one more, one more—and then it’s just like it’s all—keep going one more, a little more, a little more. [murmurs of dissent.] Where’s the locker room?

Robin McConnell: Oh, it didn’t make it in.

Frank: Oh bummer. Well, anyway, it’s like a game. It’s basically like, was it Heroesville?

Dash Shaw: Comicsville.

Frank: Comicsville. So it’s like a game. It’s like a virtual reality game. So this whole episode in the beginning is just this game but it’s like to me, it was this treatise on Kirby’s idea of what being a hero is or was. It’s a game. It’s like a sport. I think it was transparent about what all his comics are about. To me, this particular comic wraps it all up, I horde this comic whenever I see it in the bargain bins. A lot of people don’t like this late style, but I think this is the kind of style that I think is carrying on. It’s still, I think, very fresh. It’s not like his old stuff. It’s really different. I think it’s really ahead of the curve and I’m running out of steam.

Robin: When did this come out in comparison to the New Gods stuff?

Frank: This was after the New Gods stuff. So this is post-DC. He got canned from DC. All of his DC books got canceled. Then he went back to Marvel. This was around the time he was doing The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, the Captain America/Black Panther stuff. Anybody who read that Captain America—Madbomb, those issues. Those are really great. Anybody else want to riff on [inaudible, 2:47]

Robert Dayton: You know what I find really interesting about his 2001 stuff is it’s almost like a mantra. You buy every issue and as a kid you probably feel ripped off, because every issue goes exactly the same. At the end of the issue, a caveman or someone back in time, meets the monolith. The End. Next issue: Same thing. It’s almost like reading Gerald Jablonski’s comics. It becomes like a mantra. It’s just repetition. It’s kind of fascinating reading each and every issue, because even the series, like basically he did a Treasury edition of 2001.

Dash: Yeah, it’s insane.

Robert: Which is insane. It’s massive. It’s huge. It’s gorgeous.

Frank: It’s beautiful. You know those oversized treasuries? Remember those things from the ‘70s? It’s an adaptation of the movie, right?

Robert: Yeah.

Frank: But it’s totally different. It’s Kirby-style. It makes no sense.

Dash: He got some production stills from the movie that you can see that he directly swiped from.

Frank: Yeah!

Dash: And then he just connected it with like just Kirby stuff.

Frank: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Robert: And Kirby was such a collage artist, too. So in the Treasury edition, there’s all these crazy collages.

Dash: The sequence right after this where it moves into the reality is really nice, too, because the reality turns out to not … I don’t know if …

Frank: Yeah, well see, he’s playing this game.

Dash: This isn’t real. Like sometimes when I …

Frank: Like self-heat chicken dinner? He lives in this giant apartment complex and then it’s just this thing. It’s Mountain Air.

Dash: But that beach scene isn’t real.

Frank: So it’s all Matrix! It’s like Matrix. It’s all … but like pre- … whatever, go ahead. [laughter] Go ahead. Go ahead.

Dash: I was going to say when you flip through a lot of these comics, my first reaction is these are way too wordy. I don’t know. Do you have that feeling?

Robin: They’re wordy, but …

Dash: But then in this sequence, you flip through it and you think that “This is actually real,” but all of the text is about how none of this, “This isn’t a real seascape” and everything like that. It’s a juxtaposition.

Robin: Do you find this is one of the more Kirby doing a better job of mixing the two.

Dash: Well, he wrote these, too.

Robin: Yeah, but that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes the story isn’t as strong as the art.

Frank: Well, I think the story is equally as strong as the art. I mean … go ahead.

Dash: Well, I don’t think he would do this the Marvel style if he was doing it for himself. Right?

Frank: Right.

Dustin Harbin: I would have thought with the wordiness that this was in the Marvel style. Because the story looks so clear with that page layout and then all these words were kind of scotch taped on top of it. Which is kind of the Marvel style …

Frank: Well, he wrote, all of Kirby’s stuff, you look at the originals in like the Kirby Collector or whatever, all of his stuff, he has all of the dialogue written in the sides or the back and then Stan or whomever just kind of cleaned it up a little bit. So I think that he’s still doing it in that style, in that way, because I think Mike Royer edited these also, so he helped clean them up. But for me, this was a real gateway comic—just to go back to the main thrust of the panel. It’s like, I was really into Kirby but this was way out there. I didn’t like his ‘70s style. I thought it was really wack and I hated it for a long time. It took me a long time to get into it. But to me, this starts heading into this alternate world. I don’t want to say alternative comics, but it’s just so different from what he had been doing for the 20 years previous that, like I feel like this is what ends up influencing the current generation. So …

It’s hard to read this and not think of Mazzucchelli, both since Asterios Polyp came out recently and he’s one of the kings of the “mainstream”/”alternative” fusion artists. Polyp has some stellar examples of this. My favorite sequence in the book is when Polyp, the “paper architect,” builds a tree house. I told Mazz I loved this scene and he said: “Kirby.”

Or how about this Steranko-esque film still-like panel of Asterios and Hana at the beach, pausing in silhouette, below. I like the melodrama of it. It’s ballsy.

Frank: The Escape Artist. Yeah, so Steranko, after Kirby—Kirby was a big deal in the ’60s, but then in the late ‘60s, there was this guy who was really kind of like the new regime was Jim Steranko, James Steranko. He took Kirby’s style and made it really design-y and really modern.

Robin: Deco pop, almost.

Frank: Deco pop is a good way of describing it. This particular story on the right, this is Bernie Krigstein from the late ‘50s and this is a Steranko story from the early ‘70s and a horror comic from Marvel. Can we click ahead one? And you can see he’s doing all these really wacky layouts and stuff like that. It’s not very … like this face is very Kirby to me and a lot of the figures are very Kirby, but as Dash likes to point out if you think Kirby’s anatomy is messed up, Steranko’s is even more messed up. He’s just doing it. So a lot of these figures are really cut-out figures and stuff. But he’s doing a lot of things with time that hearken back to what Krigstein was doing in the ‘50s.

Dash: The Krigstein comic is “The Master Race,” that Spiegelman likes so much to talk about. He did an article in The New Yorker about it.

Robin: Yeah. I think he first did an essay back in [inaudible, 11:14]

Frank: See, this is the subway going by and all the figures going by fast. He’s breaking up the time like way differently. I mean, this is ’59 …

Robin: This is earlier than that.

Frank: Really?

Dash: I want to hear Frank … you called this cinematic before, those panels. I’ve heard that used a lot. I don’t know if you used it.

Frank: Did I say that?

Dash: Why do you think people call those kind of panels, tall …

Frank: Oh, the tall panels. Because it breaks up the time differently. I think it’s a way of like Kirby is all about it’s not instantaneous moment to moment. It’s more like every ten seconds or something. You see the punch, then you see the reaction. But he’s doing every … this is like five seconds or whatever. This is like an instantaneous thing. Cinematic … I think so, but it’s just more like … Steranko’s cinematic in the sense of his framing, I think. His framing is way more …

Dash: If you scrolled, those long horizontal things like this.

Frank: Oh this. Yeah. Well, I think that’s cinematic because in the late ‘60s, everybody went panorama in the ‘60s, so it’s like your eye, I think, is going across these panels.

Robin: It’s kind of like the whole Orson Welles …

Frank: Deep focus.

Robin: That long …

Robert: The pan. You know what I was thinking? I was looking at these and speaking of cinematic, I was really thinking that Steranko’s a lot like Brian De Palma. That’s because both De Palma and both Steranko, for a lot of reasons, actually, they both use a lot of genre tropes. Like this is an old dark house kind of story. Also, De Palma would always make you conscious that you were watching a film and I think Steranko makes you really conscious that you were reading a comic. That’s what the framing—I mean, De Palma would use a lot of split screen and you see the way things are divided up here. Also, the way that they acknowledged the old masters: Steranko acknowledging Krigstein and Kirby and De Palma acknowledging Hitchcock, most especially.

Something that Jeet Heer touched on previously on CC, and was also asked at the TCAF panel, was how necessary it is for readers to track or be interested in artist’s influences.

Audience member: [inaudible, 45:45-] I mean, there is value to knowing stuff. It’s okay, but if you just want pleasure and it doesn’t matter to you and you’re getting the pleasure and something’s hitting the pleasure button and you don’t know that it’s just a third generation knockoff, then it’s okay. At the same time, if you want to be an informed reader … [continues]

Dash: I think if you’re coming to this panel, you want to be an informed reader.

Audience member: … reading the best work …

Robin: The main thing is you enjoy comics. Let’s see what that person enjoyed.

Robert: If you like this, you might like this.

Robin: That’s exactly it. Without being commercial thing like DC’s, “You like Watchmen, here’s the next thing to read.” You like Brandon Graham? Read Moebius, you’ll love it if you haven’t read Moebius. That’s kind of the conduct of people who love this stuff and reading it is rather important. There are so many comics to read, and people don’t really know that. And good luck at finding this stuff for an affordable except for the horrible Incal reprints that are re-colored.

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary for readers to be informed about this stuff. It’s only of interest to people who care. But, I think the big “trickle down” effect IS interesting. I care. Not for an “I know who’s ripping off of who! Ha ha!” annoying reason, but because it’s telling a wider story about the psychology of artists. If you’re someone who’s interested in that, it’s worth tracking what was coming out when, or who was reading what when, because the “trickle down” effect over time is more exciting, to me, than holding a romantic belief that everyone’s working in a vacuum devoid of influences. All of the artists struggling to reach that “vacuum”/influence-less state are revealing in their own way.

Obviously, I don’t think people should feel that artists are handed a menu of what came before them and starting ordering things (“I’ll have a little bit of Kirby sprinkled with Sol Lewitt, please”), and I don’t think people should feel artists are necessarily having a conversation with other artists exclusively (“Ware did this, so I went the other way.”) The motivations are a tangled web encompassing a million things. It’s the whole psychology of the person. If you’re happy never reaching a conclusion, just bouncing around reading comics history or whatever, then it’s a journey worth making. Or at least a panel worth attending.

Huge thanks to Robin again and Squally Showers, Robert Dayton, Dustin Harbin and Frank.

Here’s a random Gray Morrow Edge of Chaos spread, because it rules. Show n tell.

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Follow-up for Frank


Monday, May 18, 2009

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If you want to listen to the TCAF “Post-Kirby” panel Frank mentioned in his last post, the audio has been posted by Inkstuds.

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TCAF ramble


Sunday, May 17, 2009

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The drive from NYC to Toronto was fun. Dan, Dash, the books, and me. I drove most of the way. It’s a hoof, for sure. Basically ten hours when it’s all said and done. Dan’s a decent navigator, but he likes those Google directions, and I prefer Ye Olde Atlas, so a few times we goofed and missed a turn. For the most part we found our way and got there in one piece. Dan backed into the gas station and crunched the bumper a bit in Buffalo. So, y’know, the usual drive to a con for me and Dan.

Dash is whatchacall a good conversationalist, so he and Dan riffed on all things comics most of the way. The future of print magazines, new subscription models, online comics, animated shorts, oh yah—Dash has these new short animation pieces that he showed me and Dan on his iPod. All hand drawn by him and Jane Sabrowski they look fantastically modern, fresh. Dash sees no distinction really between comics and animation. It felt like reading a solid short comic story. Only two minutes long but just shimmering with a very particular pacing. Remarkable detail and movement.

Dan’s finishing up his second Art Out Of Time book and we talked about John Stanley. Somehow that led to Trevor Von Eeden. Lay-outs. That’s the connection. Comic book page lay-outs. John Stanley horror comics and their page designs. Thriller and how it was DC’s “art” comic. Crazy art by Von Eeden colored by Lynn Varley. And how DC’s other “art” comic at the time, Ronin, was also colored by Varley. Everyone knew she was the secret to Miller’s successful visual breakthrough (don’t laff) on Ronin, but she was also the real reason why early Von Eeden is so good. And then, after Ronin, she mostly only worked with Miller. Things that make you go hmm…..

John Stanley, Lynn Varley. These were the important matters of the day. Then it was Steranko. And Mazzucchelli. Dash did an interview with Mazz for an upcoming Comics Journal. They talked about Steranko.

Dan’s curating a Mazz show for MoCCA. I still haven’t read Asterios Polyp. Dash didn’t know that Richmond Lewis colored Iron Wolf by Mignola and Chaykin. Chaykin! Chaykin was into Steranko. That led us back to Photoshop and animation. Chaykin should do animation. I could do all the backgrounds. Dash would color it. Chaykin would just have to draw the figures over my lay-outs. Cody Starbuck 3000.

Then we were there, we made it, Friday night. This year’s TCAF was in the big Reference Library in Toronto. I was skeptical of the new venue but it turned out to be perfect. We dropped our books off. Checked into the hotel. Went and got burgers. Walked around, got a drink. Dan tried not to smoke cigarettes.


I spent almost all day Saturday behind the table, pricing my “curated back issues” for the discerning Toronto crowd. In other cities my back issues cause a riot. But in a town that boasts one of the best comics shops in the world—The Beguiling—most of the TCAF attendees were like, “Oh yah, I have all these…” I was shocked. “What? You have Dennis The Menace Goes To Mexico?”

Somebody was rifling through my sets when he pulled out Gilbert Hernandez’s Speak Of The Devil and pointed to the “hype-up” sticker I affixed to the bag. “Is this really the GREATEST MINI-SERIES EVER?”

I was ready to deliver my best fastball sales pitch when the gentleman stopped me and introduced himself. “Hey Frank, it’s Robin McConnell.” Whew. I was getting ready to go off like some used car salesman loudmouth, ha ha. And I thought I had recognized his voice, he of Inkstuds fame, but i didn’t have a moment to register it all. In all the rush to set up the PictureBox table and arrange our wares, I’d almost forgotten about the panel discussion we we doing in the early afternoon that Saturday.

The panel was basically about how old mainstream comics from the last 30 years had a lot of influence on how alt comics were formed. More or less. I think, really, Robin and I wanted to just throw the ball around in front of a crowd. So we got some other folks who are equally comics-crazy to join us: Dash Shaw, Dustin Harbin, and Robert Dayton.

Robin moderated the panel. But I hi-jacked it early on and spent maybe a little too much time trying to guess if the audience had really read all the stuff we were riffing on: Ditko, ’70s Kirby, Steranko. I think my fellow panelists were being polite and just let me TRY and explain why mid-70’s Kirby is important to me as an artist. Once I just spoke “normally” and let someone else talk, the panel occasionally assumed some sense of order. Dustin tried to be a voice of reason. When the audience jumped in was when it really went somewhere. It was fun, anyways.

[UPDATE FROM TIM: You can listen to the panel here.]

(I think at this point I’ll leave the panel description to anybody but me. Please feel free to add your voice in the comments. I’m completely unreliable recalling whatever it was I was ranting on about—and even listening to the mp3 Robin sent me hasn’t helped. Ask Dash. Ask Robert Dayton. But don’t ask Dustin. Or Bill K. (Just kidding, geez…))

Back at the table, business was brisk. I sold a Dennis The Menace to a little girl for 3 bux. She seemed happy. Even Dan was happy. He was only grumpy cuz it was pretty hot in the room we were in once it filled up. It was packed for most of the day. I barely walked the floor to see friends cuz of the traffic at our table. We did okay. I was selling Cold Heat sets at an unexpected clip. People were actually bringing their copies of Storeyille from home to be signed. Saturday just blew by. It was great.


The bar was packed so we had to go upstairs on the enclosed roof. It was loud. Dan hobnobbed with Mr. Oliveros and Mr. Tomine.

Gabrielle Bell, Dash, and I made of list of comics we’d like to “cover”—like we would re-mix a Crumb story or something. But it was just an excuse to ask Gabrielle to collaborate on a Cold Heat Special. She said “maybe” and laughed. I tried to flatter her by telling her that she had nice angles in her artwork. “Maybe.” I tried to compliment her color sense and that we could exploit her mastery by doing a full color offset job for the project. “Maybe.” I tried to buy her a beer. “Maybe.”

Dash has these ideas about re-mixing comics, like “covering” well known comics and just using it like a melody. Just riffing on it. Like sampling, but not. And he also has these interesting ideas about imitating TV formats. Wait, that sounds too literal. It’s more like trying to distill the melodrama out of the narrative. Boil it down. He showed me this Blind Date comic he did where he riffed on the reality dating show and used the format of the show to underpin the arc of the story or episode. Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, you know what I mean. It was a short story, but it really made me think about how one could build comics more informally, how things like TV and YouTube have shaped our sense of narrative. After all, it’s the snippet of story, action, drama, that we like to experience in these other mediums, this instant unfolding. Dash didn’t bother with too much set up at all in the story, it’s all there, programmed into our heads already. So the focus was on the boiled down back and forth between the characters and their movement through space and time. It FELT like a 15-minute episode of a show and not a comic that I read in 3 minutes.

Back at the hotel, Dan asked me if I had seen Seth‘s new book. I hadn’t. Holy shit, Batman. George Sprott is a stunningly beautiful book.


Got a slow start. Everyone was doing the slightly hungover shuffle. Went and had a coffee with fellow Pittsburgher Erin Griffin. Surprisingly, many coffee shops in Toronto have never heard of soy milk. Maybe I was mumbling.

Dash and I put some of our Cold Heat Special #3’s together. Dan realized I had “borrowed” the stapler from the PictureBox office back at SPX last year. “Hey, that’s where the stapler went!”

Walked the floor a bit. Talked shop with Brett Warnock. Said hello to Nate Powell. Stopped by Alvin Buenaventura‘s table. Said hi to Jessica over at D&Q. Stood in line to get a George Sprott book from Seth. The D&Q table was like a warship at battle. There was a line that stretched out the door for Tatsumi.

Met lots of people read Comics Comics who said they thought I’d be a jerk in person. That’s always nice to hear. I think. Sold some Shaky Kane and Brendan McCarthy comics to Tom K.

Tom K is one of my favorite cartoonists these days. His sense of space is impeccable. No surprise then to learn that he went to architecture school. So we stood around riffing on the Golden Section and how most artists and architects just take all that (knowledge and irrationality and measure and magic) for granted. Tom also has discerning taste in back issues and browsed my back issues for a good twenty minutes. I asked Tom about his MOME comics and if they were going to be collected. He said his recent move to Minneapolis (a year ago now, actually) has impeded his progress slightly on cranking out the comics. And everyone still thinks he lives in New York.

Dan had a panel late in the afternoon. There were still a lot of people milling around. Met plenty of nice people who wanted to talk about old comics. Jim Rugg came by and got a copy of Nemoto‘s Monster Men.

Then the show was over. And then Dan realized we could make it to The Beguiling before it closed. So we packed up quick and raced over there. We couldn’t let another TCAF go by without actually seeing this awesome store that we’ve always heard so much about. And, man, it really is an awesome store. Dash found a whole set of Mai The Psychic Girl for a song. I found a set of Star*Reach. And a set of Trevor Von Eeden’s Black Canary. Dan unearthed some rare Real Deal comics. We were in heaven. And our finds fueled a whole ‘nother round of riffing on old comics at dinner.

That’s what I love about TCAF, that there’s an opportunity to really share ideas and talk at length about comics. I mean, I talk about comics all the time anyways and at other festivals but when everyone gets together like this in a comics-hospitable environment like Toronto, man, there is like none of the guilt that goes along with some comics gatherings, that “What am I doing here?” feeling. So somehow the urge to just keep talking shop and imagining some bright future for alt/art comics sticks around. And the conversations go on for days essentially. Like I started to feel like Dan, Dash, and I were in a Chester Brown comic where he walks around town and goes to bookstores with Seth and Joe Matt and they’re all riffing on comics and art. It was pleasantly surreal. And genuinely enjoyable. We had a great time. TCAF is something special.

[UPDATE FROM TIM: Inkstuds posted the audio from the “Post-Kirby” panel Frank was on here.]

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Now I Wish I Went


Friday, May 15, 2009

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That‘s the Dan I know!

On the other hand, I don’t know if this report is accurate, Dan, but I would like to point out that you have had months to digest Asterios Polyp, so that’s no excuse–for you.

It’s impossible to tell much from this post that mentions Frank’s panel, but maybe more details will be revealed.

Also: I feel like maybe we should be arguing about this, but really, I get tired just thinking about it. Maybe you guys have the energy.

Reviews soon.

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TCAF Laffs ’09


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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PictureBox alighted to Toronto for the weekend to set up shop, sell books, and enjoy a comics “vacation.” I drove up with Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw. Many things were discussed. We went to see Star Trek. It was very excellent. We ate hamburgers (twice, Hodler!) and enjoyed the company of our colleagues. Also, there were back issues to be had at The Beguiling. Always with the back issues.

Two handsome men and a lot of books.

Which one of us bought these? I bet you can guess…

Tom Devlin reserves judgment.

Comic critic enforcers Jeet Heer and Bill Kartalopoulos loom large over PictureBox.

A fleeing Gabrielle Bell says “maybe” to Frank’s generous offer to collaborate on a Cold Heat Special. “Maybe means maybe,” says Bell!

All in all, a truly excellent weekend. TCAF is the best comics festival in North America — it’s cosmopolitan but still feels very community oriented. Everyone retreats to one bar, everyone is accessible. It’s really quite nice. So hats off to Chris, Peter, and the whole crew.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that my favorite surprise of the show was the English translation of Francois Ayroles’ Key Moments from the History of Comics. The Beguiling published this little chapbook, which contains one page cartoons mostly focusing on the great American and European cartoonists. It’s perhaps my favorite work of general comics history in years. A real gem. I have no idea how to get it, though I suspect it will soon be available from The Beguiling itself.

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Watch Out Toronto


Friday, August 17, 2007

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PictureBox is blowing into Toronto tonight to engage in TCAF, The Toronto Comic Art Festival, Saturday and Sunday. Frank Santoro and I will be our usual bleary-eyed slightly grouchy selves. But we’ll be happy to see you! And we will sell you things!

Debuting at TCAF is Brian Chippendale’s decade-in-the-making Maggots. We have just 30 advance copies for sale. Get ’em quick! Also, we’ll have some eye-popping prints and posters by Chippendale, C.F., and Leif Goldberg, fresh off the ink stained floors of Providence, RI.

Come and let us rock you!

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