of the NORTH:
The Canadian Car toonist Hall of Fame presents
Mar tin Vaughn-James
The Englishness of Seth Joe Ollmann
brings his Mid-Life crisis to D+Q
Marta Chudolinska Michael DeForge Nina Bunjevac Pat McEown Kelly Tindall & Andy Brown publisher of Conundrum Press
Festival Book Lists & Lots of Comic Strips & Previews of New, and up coming Graphic Novels!
NEW FROM CONUNDRUM PRESS WWW.CONUNDRUMPRESS.COM
Ruts & Gullies: Nine Days in Saint Petersburg
From the artist behind the critically acclaimed Drop-in comes an earlier comic strip project, collected here for the ﬁrst time in its entirety. Originally serialized in Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper from 1998-2003, Children of the Atom is like a Samuel Beckett play in comic strip form.
With both adventure and introspection Philippe Girard’s ﬁrst book in English turns a trip to a comic festival in Russia with his friend and publisher Jimmy Beaulieu into an inner journey.
COMING THIS FALL! Inkstuds is a collection of thirty interviews with North American alternative comic artists taken from the impressive archive that Robin McConnell has built up over the past ﬁve years on his radio show of the same name. “It’s the closest thing to an Inside the Actor’s Studio of comics.” — Bryan Lee O’Malley
a proud sponsor of the 2010
The 2010 Doug Wright Awards will be held
Saturday May 8 at 7 p.m.
at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon ( 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St. )
page 2 GIANTS of the NORTH: The Canadian Cartoonist Hall of Fame Profile of Martin Vaughn-James By Sean Rogers page 4 Profile of Marta Chudolinska Nominated for the 2010 Doug Wright Award for Best Book By Kevin de Vlaming page 5 5 Questions for Tom Spurgeon By Alan David Doane page 7 Interview with Kelly Tindall By Kevin de Vlaming
page 9 An interview with Andy Brown, publisher of Conundrum Press By Dave Howard
page 14 Review: Wilson The New Graphic Novel by Daniel Clowes By Dave Howard
page 10 King Trash Wins with Lose: An Interview with Michael DeForge Nominated for the 2010 Doug Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent By Bryan Munn
page 16 A Seth notebook: The Englishness of Seth Nominated for the 2010 Doug Wright Award for Best Book By Jeet Heer
page 11 Review : Lose #2 By Bryan Munn
page 17 An Interview with Nina Bunjevac By Dave Howard
page 12 Joe Ollmann brings his Mid-Life crisis to D+Q By Bryan Munn page 13 3 Reviews of books about bodies: Poof! Tyranny & A Mess of Everything By Bryan Munn
page 4 People Around Here By Dave Lapp
page 8 Sad Like Batman By Mara Sternberg
page 5 Fun With Autobiography: one crazy summer part 2 By Dustin Harbin
page 18 Pat McEown has always been a bit of a Chimera - An interview and overview with the elisive creator By Robin Fisher
page 18 Dream Life | a late coming of age A preview of a weekly web comic By Salgood Sam
The Wee Days By Jai Granofsky
page 23 The Happy Undertaker By Drazen Kozjan
page 10 Sand Castles By Daniel Ha
page 6 The Bottel Collector A preview of 'The Rabble of Downtown Toronto' By Jason Kieffer
page 12 Mid-Life - A preview By Joe Ollmann
page 7 Zombie Dad By Tyrone McCarthy & Howard Wong
page 14 Unspent Love; Or, Things I Wish I Told You pt3 By Shannon Gerard
page 24 Oh, what a cruel God we've got By Jesse jacobs page 26 Evil Doer-A Love Story Mariko Tamaki & Willow Dawson
page 16 Heaven All Day A preview of a new book. By John Martz Nominated for the 2010 Doug Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent
page 28 Drips Fiona Smyth
CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIALNO DERIVATIVE WORKS 2.5
Lots of panels parties and events to check out too, and don't miss ...
Ahhh, blah blah blah. VIVA COMICS!
The 2010 Doug Wright Awards Held Saturday May 8 at 7 p.m. at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon ( 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St.)
Salgood Sam Publisher and Comic artist. Here's something more useful... Books to look for @ TCAF.
Sword of My Mouth: a post-Rapture graphic novel. The sequel to Therefore Repent! Jim Munroe & Shannon Gerard Kenk: A Graphic Portrait of the world’s most prolific bicycle thief! Richard Poplak & Nick Marinkovich Mome 18 Fantagraphics’ anthology features the first new comics work from Dave Cooper in years. Lose #2 Michael DeForge The Abominable Charles Christopher Collecting the Eisner-nominated webcomic. Karl Kerschl WILSON Dan Clowes Kill Shakespeare #1 Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery, Andy Belanger, Ian Herring + Kagan McLeod Mirror Mind Tory Woollcott Sand & Fury: A Scream Queen Adventure Ho Che Anderson LOLA: A GHOST STORY J. Torres & Elbert Or Poof! Line Gamache Tyranny Lesley Fairfield A Mess of Everything Miss Lasko-Gross The BOOK OF GRICKLE Graham Annable
Dream Life #1 Salgood Sam
Finalists for Best Book are: Back + Forth by Marta Chudolinska George Sprott: (1894-1975) by Seth Hot Potatoe by Marc Bell Kaspar by Diane Obomsawin Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas Finalists for Best Emerging Talent are: Adam Bourret : I'm Crazy Michael DeForge : Lose #1 & Cold Heat Special Pascal Girard : Nicolas John Martz : It's Snowing Outside. We Should Go For a Walk. Sully : The Hipless Boy Finalists for the 2010 Pigskin Peters Award (for unconventional, "nominally-narrative" comics) are: Bébête by Simon Bossé Dirty Dishes by Amy Lockhart Hot Potatoes by Marc Bell Never Learn Anything From History by Kate Beaton The Collected Doug Wright Volume One by Doug Wright More great tittles to look for at the show.
Special thanks to our sponsors for making it all possible!
Guerilla Printing, The Beguiling, Fan Expo Canada, The Doug Wright Awards, & Conundrum Pres. Koyama Press, Paradise Comics, City of Craft, Smiley Guy Studios, & Steam Whistle! TheFablerBlog.com & Books.Torontoist.com for donations of content. This is the second edition of Sequential Pulp the special print edition of
Thanks for the inspiration and excuse to make this magazine goes to the organizers and volunteers of TCAF 2010 especially Director, Christopher Butcher.
Martin Vaughn-James By Sean Rogers
Last summer saw the passing of the painter, novelist, illustrator, and cartoonist Martin Vaughn-James. He might have distanced himself from that last handle—cartoonist—maintaining instead that his works were new, that although they hovered around the traditional comic book, they never fully landed within that field. While Vaughn-James might have asked us to understand his small shelf's worth of books as visual narratives, or “visualnovels,” or even, once, a “boovie,” he nevertheless worked tirelessly to challenge and contribute to the language of comics. What we've come to think of as “the graphic novel” has endless claimants to the title of inventor, but Vaughn-James's role as forefather is distinguished by the unparalleled ambition, ability, and merit of works like his 1975 masterpiece, The Cage.
Above, excerpts from 'The Cage'
Excerpt from 'Elephant'
Martin Howard Vaughn-James was born December 5, 1943, in Bristol, England— “during an air-raid,” according to the tonguein-cheek bio in his first novel, the detective satire Night Train (1989). After a childhood spent in bombed-out postwar towns like Birmingham, being exposed to the residue of destruction that would inform so much of the imagery in his work, he emigrated with his family to Australia in 1958—necessitating a six week voyage by ship, followed by three years spent in a migrant camp. He enrolled in the National Art School in Sydney, where he won a painting prize that encouraged
him and his lifelong partner, poet Sarah McCoy, to leave the country. They ended up in Toronto in 1968, where he began to consider how he might “derange” the conventions of comics, allowing image and text to combine and diverge in perplexing, disarming manners, eventually producing hundreds of pages of rigorous, demanding visual narratives. During this outburst of creativity, VaughnJames worked on the imposing full-length books The Projector (1971), The Cage, and L'Enquêteur [The Investigator] (1984),
in addition to a series of impressive shorter pieces in which he tested out his approach to the longer projects. These include the chapbooks Elephant (1970) and The Park (1972), as well as over a dozen short stories, published beginning in 1973 and collected, alongside some of his elaborately detailed drawings, in 1982 under the title Après la bataille [After the Battle]. VaughnJames eventually settled in Paris, and then Brussels, following his final departure from Toronto in 1977. The bulk of his short strips, however, and a good deal of work on L'Enquêteur had already been completed by the time he left Canada, and had made up part of Vaughn-James's solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1975. It was in Toronto that Vaughn-James made the first of his important alliances with historic publishing houses, when Coach House Press released his second book, The Projector. Coach House had emerged as a major player in the burgeoning literary vanguard in Canada at the time, and was home to kindred spirits engaged in radical projects not unlike Vaughn-James's. The poets bpNichol and Steve McCaffrey, for instance, were also experimenting with and theorizing about the comics form, praising and anthologizing Vaughn-James's work. Following The Projector, Coach House published The Park and The Cage as similarly handsome artist's books, granting them a context and seriousness far removed from the brand of pulpy ephemera that most comics were then understood to be. But if Coach House provided Vaughn-James with a venue in which he could realise his ideas—“The very substance of the narrative today should be the destruction from within of the worn-out sign language of our culture,” he wrote in The Cage—then it was another seminal publisher that helped give him the inspiration for those ideas.
critic and author Benoît Peeters, who would later make a film about Vaughn-James, and have the artist “star” in one of the volumes of his Les Cités obscures series.) VaughnJames's work would be heavily influenced, in particular, by the practitioners of the nouveau roman who published with Minuit—RobbeGrillet, Claude Simon, Robert Pinget— whose novels stripped narrative of the old conventions of character, plot, and chronology, often in favour of a kind of chosisme, a focus on how we perceive objects and how we grant them significance.
a ribbon. The Cage recapitulates and perfects all these concerns. In that book, VaughnJames guides a disembodied spectator-reader through desolate landscapes, street scenes, wildernesses, to investigate what happens in a hallway, in a room, in the titular cage. The divorce between frozen image and poetic text, the tension on the page between stable space and advancing time, and the array of objects put into play—a menacing inky stain, twisted and victimized bedsheets—all become motifs that interact in complex, labyrinthine patterns. In doing so, Vaughn-James masterfully complicates and disrupts what we understand to be the typical functioning of comics, or narrative, or any similar structure we rely on to make sense of our world. He reveals them each to be, like any object from The Cage, “less an actual machine than an odd and enigmatic abstraction, totally unnatural, its utility obscured....”
Reconfiguring narrative in terms of the interplay of things, or the simple progression through space and time, makes Vaughn-James's work abstract and difficult to summarize. Even when characters do appear, they are marvels of instability. The earlier works are peopled by fairly conventional figures—a bald, bespectacled stand-in for the author, a bunch of mean-spirited funny animals—but even so, they metamorphose, disappear, and turn inexplicably into empty suits of clothes without forewarning. Their creator thrusts them through surreal cityscapes that comment obliquely on media saturation and the factory-farm nature of the contemporary workplace. This kind of emphasis on setting displaces character entirely in VaughnJames's middle works, but when the human figure reappears in L'Enquêteur, it is still the landscapes and the buildings that dominate. Of the two characters, here, one—the investigator—never appears the same way twice, and the other— the subject of his investigation, variously called Thompson, Tomkins, Tomlinson, To m a s s e n — n e v e r appears at all. Our attention, instead, is drawn to the locations through which these ciphers pursue and evade one another, as well as to their guns, raincoats, fedoras, and valises.
Aside from the French books collecting the sequences he had been developing since the mid'70s, and a final, nominally narrative collection of his drawings and text in 2007 (Chambres noires [Black Rooms]), Vaughn-James largely parted ways with comics following his return to Europe. For the last twenty five-years of his life he devoted
While working on The Cage in Paris in 1972 The works that and 1973, Vaughnpreceded L'Enquêteur, Excerpt and cover from the french edition of 'The Cage' James became involved though, were what with the innovative French firm, Éditions de truly signaled a sea change in VaughnMinuit. In the publisher's eponymous house James's approach. In The Park, nothing revue, Vaughn-James published his strips but the barest trace of humankind remains alongside texts by Samuel Beckett, essays in any given frame. A photo appears, some by the theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix scissors, a shirt, a skyscraper, all in various Guattari, and scenarios by Alain Robbe- stages of decrepitude. The confused and Grillet—a heady crowd, to say the least. halting narration no longer seems anchored (Also appearing in Minuit were an interview in the images, preoccupied instead with things with Hergé and other early writings by comics that never appear before us: spots, a watch,
himself to painting haunting canvases that depict ghostly, desiccated images of buildings, objects, and people on the verge of being lost to memory. The induction of Martin Vaughn-James into the Giants of the North this year helps to ensure that his work, on the contrary, will continue to live on in memory for years to come.
Martin Vaughn-James is to be inducted into GIANTS of the NORTH: The Canadian Cartoonist Hall of Fame, @ the 6th annual Doug Wright Awards. Handed out as part of Toronto Comics Arts Festival, Sat. May 8, at 7 pm at the Toronto Reference Library's new Bram & Bluma Appel Salon. - www.wrightawards.ca Find Martin Vaughn-James online @ lesimpressionsnouvelles.com galerielibrecours.eu Analysis; The Ghost of a Character: The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James
Find more of Sean Rogers @ www.walrusmagazine.com Writen with thanks for Sequential Pulp.
Film still: Martin Vaughn-James playing Augustin Des Ombres in a film made with the participation of Francois Schuiten, a graphic novelist and illustrator from Belgium.
Magrittean surrealism from "Elephant"
to use it as a setting.” As is indicated by the title, Marta’s first major foray into graphic novels is also unique in that it is composed entirely of linocuts. To choose to take on a project like this and do it entirely with lino-carved prints falls into an ‘epic endeavour’ category in my books. “I think part of the reason I was able to pull of the project,” says Marta with a laugh, “Is that I didn’t know how much work it was going to be. I mean it was in my last year of studies, and I also did a thesis in drawing and painting so I did a fully body of work for that in addition to doing the book. The last few months of that whole process were absolutely insane.” When asked if she’d do it again, Marta doesn’t dismiss the idea. “I think that finding that exact motivation might be hard again,” she says, “But maybe getting involved with a publisher or just having a really, really strong idea would push me to do it.”
The Fabler: Profile of Marta Chudolinska Author/Artist of Back + Forth: A Novel In 90 Linocuts
Chudolinska, who says that the book was largely based on her own experiences, describes her initial reaction to the momentum generated by Back + Forth as amazement. “When I first started the book, it was very much a personal project. I made it on a small scale by myself, and then talked with the publisher, and I didn’t know what to expect from my first published work. Just seeing it slowly build up into what it is now and then seeing it nominated for this award has been very, very amazing.”
By Kevin de Vlaming A typical graphic novel presents a fusion between sequentially presented art and some form of narrative. Nowhere, however, is it written that graphic novel narratives must necessarily include text. (terrible pun unintentional.) This is a point that Marta Chudolinska drives home with her graphic novel Back + Forth: A Novel in 90 Linocuts. Back + Forth, originally published last October by The Porcupine’s Quill, was just recently announced as a finalist for this year’s Doug Wright Award for Best Book. It presents a story that examines the relationship between time, geographic place, and our sense of self-perception. If that sounds vague, it’s because it’s meant to be – one of the advantages of structuring a narrative based purely around visual impressions is that it allows much to be left to the reader’s (or more accurately, the viewer’s) interpretation. Exerpts from Back + Forth
Exerpts from Back + Forth
Regarding the Doug Wright Award for Best Book, Marta is up against such major Canadian comic creators as Seth and Marc Bell – a fact that she says she considered ‘jaw-dropping’ when she initially found out that she was shortlisted. “Even before I found out about the shortlist,” Marta says, “One of the first things that really amazed me was when my publisher forwarded the request to me from the Doug Wright Awards asking for several copies of my book to review. It said something like, ‘please send five copies to the head of the jury, Chester Brown‘. For me that was like, ‘holy crap, Chester Brown is gonna read my book’.” Achieving recognition from the comics art
Marta credits Roland Barthes’ essay The Death of the Author as a significant influence on her ideas about creating a wordless narrative. “I think the best part about it,” she says in an interview with The Fabler, “Is that people can bring their own interpretations to the story, and see something that maybe I didn’t intend or connect to something that I didn’t think was there. I also like the potential for emotional resonance – it’s sort of like when you’re adding words to something, you’re taking away from the power of the image. Without words, the image is allowed to become so powerful it can smack you in the face with the emotional charge of it.” The emotional resonance of Marta’s images in Back + Forth certainly succeeds in carrying across the struggles with identity, sexuality, and isolation depicted within its pages. Beyond that, the powerful imagery she concocts also serves as a sort of melancholy love letter to two distinct Canadian cityscapes – Vancouver and Toronto. “I had this desire for a few years before I made Back + Forth to make a book that celebrated Canadian places, and Canadian cities,” says Marta, “I had been reading Douglas Copeland, who was writing about Vancouver, and I thought ‘this is so cool that somebody’s writing about Vancouver instead of choosing an American city’. Also I really wanted to create a story about Toronto because I haven’t really encountered many, and I thought there was really a lot of potential
childrenoftheatom.com - conundrumpress.com
daily include Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, Dorothy Gambrell’s Cat and Girl, Gunshow by KC Green, and xkcd by Randall Munroe. Her top picks in graphic novels include Epileptic by David B., The Lagoon by Lilli Carre, Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, and Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth – among many others. As for what’s next from the wonderfully talented Marta Chudolinska, she is reluctant to divulge specific details but does have this to say:
community is especially significant to Marta because of her longstanding interest in comics herself. Marta says she has been reading comics since she was a little girl. “I fricking love comics,” she states, “I was born in Poland, so I had a bunch of Polish comics – my brother had a bunch of Marvel superhero comics and I ate that stuff up too. I read Archie comics like crazy, and my Mom would actually threaten to take them away when I was spending too much time reading them.” In recent years, Marta has moved more away from serialized comics and into the realm of graphic novels – she also says that she doesn’t read so much superhero fare anymore, with a few exceptions. “I also read a lot of webcomics,” says Marta, “I have an extremely long list of links to comics that I check regularly. There are probably about ten people whose webcomics I follow daily.”
“I do have an idea for my next book, which has fermenting in my brain for probably the last two years or so. I’m really not sure how it’s going to manifest, but I’d really like to do a project based on my family history. My family immigrated to Canada from Poland in the early 90’s and I’d like to explore that, as well as some of their history in Poland. I’d like also to explore the different perspectives on history I’ve learned between attending Polish school on Saturdays and what I learned in regular Canadian public school.” For more from Marta Chudolinska, you can check out her sketchblog and a blog she keeps specifically for news about Back + Forth. Originally published by thefablerblog.com 03/31/2010 Find Marta online @ backandforthbook.wordpress.com artkeener.wordpress.com
Some of the webcomics Marta visits
5 Questions for
Tom Spurgeon By Alan David Doane
How much do I enjoy reading The Comics Reporter? Since the day it launched, it’s been either my first or second stop on the internet every morning, depending on who updated first, Tom Spurgeon or Dirk Deppey. Tom’s breezy-but-blunt writing pulls no punches, and casts a wide net over what he thinks is the important and interesting news to comics readers. No one else writes quite the way Tom does, and every time I think I have him pinned, he comes at an issue from an unexpected and often revelatory angle. His reviews have never, ever steered me wrong; there are not many critics I can say that about. In short, I love the way he thinks about comics, and I love the way he expresses those thoughts. In this interview I think he’s a little hard on himself Re: content he provides on his site. So let me say for the record that I would be lost without The Comics Reporter and the focus Tom Spurgeon brings to it. I hope to hell he never, ever stops.
This is an entry about the 2009 TCAF, from Dustin Harbin's DIARY comic online. His strip 'Fun with Autobiography' was selected by the 10th Bi-annual Carte Blanche: The Literary review of the Quebec Writers’ Federation. He is a budding cartoonist from Charlotte, NC. Find him online
@ www.dharbin.com - www.carte-blanche.org
Alan David Doane: You recently celebrated five years of The Comics Reporter, I heartily congratulate and thank you. Could you tell me in what ways you think writing about comics has changed in the past five years, and in what ways it’s stayed the same?
factors like changes in printing technology and the rise and decline of specifics influences. The day I got your questions, Frank’s initial post on the just-past SPX was simply a bunch of comics he received while attending. The older I get the more it’s hard for me to give a shit about who sang karaoke with whom at these events. I just want to hear about the art, so Frank’s ability to separate last weekend’s event into art and scene and focus first on the art even in this rudimentary way really warmed my heart.
Tom Spurgeon: Thanks, Alan. Jog and the Comics Comics gang have come along since five years ago, I think, so that’s where I’d start. If they came earlier than that, it’s their improvement I’d cite. Jog is a better writer than he was two years ago, even, and he was good from the first post. I read him right now like I used to read Bob Fiore: as a well-informed, funny, fellow reader with a supple writing style that’s in there doing battle with comics week after week, a constant companion. He’s challenged me to be a better writer, although I haven’t responded yet like I hope to eventually.
In a more general sense, I think the big change between now and then is that you have more writing about comics on-line. I think there’s more work to consider, a metric ton of it now. A lot of it is at least pretty good, and the perception I think is that the main vehicle for coverage about comics is now the collective voices of those doing so on-line, which wasn’t a done deal five years ago. You can talk about specific kinds of institutional voices not being developed yet; we’re only just beginning to see considered, documented reportage, but you can’t deny people write the hell out of major events now.
I like the overlapping approaches of the Comics Comics guys. There’s some depth there, too, both in the intellectual firepower on display and in the approaches themselves. For instance, a surface reading of Frank Santoro’s writing on comics might indicate that this is a guy obsessed, like so many others, with the comics of his youth. Yet I think there’s something much more complex than that going on with Frank in terms of how he feels the fundamentals of comics language have been altered due to
You pay a great deal of attention on The Comics Reporter to conventions and other comics-related events like lectures, signings and personal appearances. What do you think these events mean to comics
and comics readers? First, let me suggest that the perception a lot of time is spent on The Comics Reporter covering such things, is mostly a failure on my part to publish as much as I’d like in terms of original content. Reviews, interviews and longer essays. As to why they’re important, I go back and forth on that, Alan. I think that for a lot of people those kinds of things are simply a social outlet that connects them back to one of their favorite things and affords status to those who operate well in that sphere. That seems pretty obvious. There’s more to it, though. I think Tom Devlin has a point when he talks about shows like SPX or signings at your local comic shop being important to readers and artists in a developmental sense. I know that being able to go to the Chicago conventions when I was a kid was a big deal in my being able to find books that sustained my interest in comics. To glimpse some of my favorite artists at work, and those shows were mostly awful. I can’t imagine how mind-blowing it would have been to grow up near SPX or MoCCA. Holy crud.
Continues on the next page....
5 Questions for Tom Spurgeon Continued from pg 5 I also think that Brian Hibbs makes a good point when he talks about signings exhibits and store appearances as ways for the artistic community to keep vital a set of markets devoted to them: the Direct Market of higher-end comics shops, and the hand-selling market strung together wherever a comics-type person is allowed to ply their wares. Marvel and DC publish many dozens of titles each & every week, yet you usually highlight only a handful in your “This Isn’t a Library” feature as being “well-regarded” titles shipping; I’m projecting here that you don’t think the majority of corporate-published comics are more than average in quality, or at least aren’t regarded as such by average readers. What one thing do you think Marvel and DC could do to get more titles under that “well-regarded” heading on a weekly basis? That’s a tricky question, Alan. First, “well-regarded” is a relative term and an entirely subjective one at that: my 2009 list of four or five books a week that seem liked more than others, might not be someone elses. Time will tell. Second, I’m always reluctant to backseat drive the big companies, because according to the standards they’ve set up for theselves – making money out the wazoo – those companies are much better run than anything I’ve got going on. Whenever I hear someone say with such great, shaken-fist certainty that “Marvel needs to do this right now,” I think of how much money the people at Marvel have made in recent years up to and including this Disney deal and it occurs to me the sound of their solid gold shoes clanking around will drown out any vocal criticism. Third, I’m not sure that it isn’t a miracle that we have any good books of that type at all, as a lot of the mainstream characters seem exhausted to me. There are just so many stories. I don’t need any more Fred Sanford than the 135 or so television episodes that already exist with him in it; I could do with 50 fewer, in fact. And I love Fred Sanford. I’m not yearning for more stories about Gulley Jimson than the book and movie I know about, and that’s a wonderful character. Yet I bet there are hundreds of comic book stories starring, I don’t know… Deadpool. How can more than a fraction of those stories truly work? My friends and I joke that we’ve had our lifetime’s allotment of Red Tornado. You know? I’m think I’m on “full” as far as the second most interesting red android superhero popular in the ‘70s goes. No entry on my bucket list will ever include the words “Man Bat.” When people talk about Spider-Man movie fans not reading the comic, they seem to presume that after the movies there’s still a Spider-Man sized hole in these people’s hearts. I’m thinking maybe not.
Preview of Jason Kieffer's 'The Rabble of Downtown Toronto', a guide to the characters of the big city, with helpful notes and a map. jasonkieffer.com
Might. It’s hard enough for anyone to do any book well, but it seems like a number of good ones simply fade because the market’s fundamental set-up. The market that the big companies have formed around themselves doesn’t give them a chance. The sales on such books spiral downward when they fall below a certain threshold; existing titles crowd the sustainable slots based on momentum rather than on quality or demand; publishers are rewarded for stuffing their line-ups with short-term tie-ins, better jobs await talented creators who given their druthers might make a go of it on the more obscure work. A bigger market might not float all boats, but it could possibly change some unfortunate habits and give better books a more expansive target area to hit in order to have a chance to develop into a long-term success story. I feel like a lot of the conflict between comics generalists and hard-core genre fans could be avoided (online and perhaps off) with more recognition of the difference between the two states of mind and acceptance that the difference exists. But I do think the better future for comics lies in the hearts and wallets of the generalists, who have seen an incredible bounty of comics explode over the past decade. Do you think the schism between the two types of buyers is good or bad for the future of comics? I think it’s good to have both kinds of buyers, and it’s a situation pretty typical to most art forms. I don’t know that one has to be prioritized over the other. I’m not even sure there’s still a lot of conflict, Alan, above the level of annoyance, not since the bookstore market and direct sales methods were opened up a bit for non-mainstream works. Superhero comics’ place in the overall comics world is probably closest to the musical’s place in the world of theater. If you like Tom Stoppard and Rebecca Gilman, you’re probably annoyed when your friend talks about seeing a show in New York and you know they only mean a show with people singing in it. But your friend’s devotion to The Lion King isn’t stopping you from seeing Arcadia or Spinning Into Butter, except maybe in the broadest sense. Again: annoying, but not fatal. Comics doesn’t have enough patrons that it can afford to piss off any of them for the sake of making a point or fostering any one person’s ideal industry set-up. I’d like to see five times as many casual readers of comics have a chance to fold more comics over into their overall reading, but I wouldn’t mind three times as many hardcore superhero comics readers, either. Why would I? What do you think comics journalism is doing right, and what is it doing wrong, both in print and online?
I don’t read any comics-related print magazines anymore, so I couldn’t tell you there. The last print journalist I thought did an admirable job covering the comics industry was Greg Stump when he Let me try to answer the question, though, I’m was full-time at the Comics Journal in the midsorry. I think the one thing that the mainstream 1990s. (I worked with Greg.) companies could do to alter the landscape in favor of more highly regarded, well-executed series is to As for on-line journalism covering comics -- that’s embrace as their primary goal publishing growth hard for me to say because I’m a participant in over a minimum five-year period. that world. Not only that, but I’m discouraged right now at what a terrible job I’ve done covering the Once you push to the corners market share rapid succession of big news stories that have hit and month-to-month sales victories achieved by the comics world recently. I think I’ve managed a exploiting things like stacked weekly comics drop- decent editorial or two, but the newsman in me dates, to pursue more general sustained growth went straight to the basement and hasn’t been -- it might free up your publishing efforts from a seen since late August. I was clearly not prepared lot of the structural barriers that get in the way to handle stories like that, and I need to figure that of talented creators doing sustained runs on a out and fix what needs fixing as soon as I can. variety of characters and concepts. Continues on page 8
By Kevin de Vlaming
I reach Kelly Tindall, Writer/Artist of Archie Snow for an interview as he is in his studio, busily inking his way through the panels of a new project with Alex Grecian (writer and co-creator of Proof). Tindall is no stranger to collaboration with Grecian. Though Proof predominantly features Riley Rossmo as the series artist, Tindall has himself done colours for the title, illustrated a Proof feature story, and he writes and draws his own regular backup stories (which can be found towards the end of each comic). He answers his phone and asks me to hold while he turns off his background music – Judas Priest, because he says listening to heavy metal while he illustrates helps keep his mind from wandering. Something about
Sample of art from Archie Snow
the pacifying voice of Rob Halford. Kelly has been illustrating since he was a just a kid living in a small town in Northern Saskatchewan. As he describes it, he had a knack for drawing early on, and “as soon as you have a discernible talent in a small town, everybody’s like, oh go be rich and famous so we can all say we knew you.” He did, of course, pursue that talent – moving from Saskatchewan to Calgary to attend the Alberta College of Art and Design. As I talk to Kelly now, he is living in Montreal, where he moved with his wife two years ago. He answers my questions with an almost giddy enthusiasm, clearly an individual who is both an astute conversationalist and very eager to talk about something he is passionate about. We talk about He-Man and TaleSpin, Snow Leopards and pint-size werewolves. And through it all, I find myself thinking, “you know, this guy can really talk.” And I mean that in a good way. But see for yourself, the interview is below: KD: What are the earliest things you can remember getting really into drawing? KT: She-Ra villains. (laughs) When I was a kid we had what we called ‘farmer vision’, which was like three channels we could get on our television. My parents used to rent a lot of VHS, and they used to bring home a lot of He-Man and She-Ra.
Continues on page 8... Preview of Squeak an upcoming graphic novel by Alex Grecian and Kelly Tindall.
tyronemccarthy.com - howard-wong.blogspot.com
5 Questions for Tom Spurgeon Although I find my own progress disappointing, especially in light of my Roberto Duran-like response to recent challenges, I’m actually not dissatisfied with the overall level of development regarding industry coverage online. It’s coming along. Whenever I used to be on panels on this subject, people talked about doing more extensive journalism like it was a switch that you could be expected to flip, or a lifestyle choice that could be embraced. In fact, the lack of a certain kind of journalism became kind of a two-edged excuse platform. On the one hand, there was this criticism that people weren’t doing it because they didn’t have the will power; on the other hand, the fact that there wasn’t extensive reportage meant that you were kind of justified in running press releases and kowtowing to pressure from marketing people. It’s both easier and a lot more difficult than that. The easy part is that you can blog or write commentary or do your reviews or choose your interview subjects as if you’re an
independent newsperson whether or not you’re doing involved, investigative journalism. A lot of journalism is attitude and curiosity and applying standards. The hard part is that it takes time to develop the resources necessary for some of the more involved journalism that all industries need. I think when one sees significant, prepared journalism from a news organization, it tends to come at a pretty late stage in that entity’s development. That was certainly true with comics on the print end of things. So I think we’re seeing more and more sophisticated coverage as on-line entities ranging from CBR to Michael Cavna’s blog mature and become better-run and have more on-hand in terms of personnel, money, time and know-how to throw at those kinds of gigs. That should continue. Hopefully, we’ll value it when it comes. Read Tom Spurgeon’s daily blog @ www.comicsreporter.com. Read Alan David Doane @ www.comicbookgalaxy.com
jaigranofsky.com Kelly Tindall interview She-Ra had the best villains. I didn’t have any of the toys, ’cause they were girl toys and no boy wants to play with girl toys, so instead I drew the villains and cut them out and played with them that way. KD: Hordak was a way cooler looking villain than Skeletor. KT: Yeah, he was just messed up. He had like a bat skull, and he was part vampire or something… But there was a bunch of them. There was like a scorpion girl, and there was a girl that had sunglasses and turned into a panther… It was rad, I love that stuff. KD: After Art College, how did you go about pursuing a career in illustration? KT: It was dumb luck, and just the right positioning more than anything. I don’t mind talking to people at all, so I just basically make it known that I’m an illustrator, I do the convention circuit, and I talk to a lot of people on the net. From there, the work just comes. KD: Where did your involvement in comic art begin?
By Mara Sternberg - online @ steeltoedblues.com
KT: I’ve always loved comics, ever since I was a little kid. Again, the small town thing; my parents’ friends ran kind of like a supermarket/ convenience store, and when they used to return comics they’d rip the covers off and just send those back. So they’d end up with
hundreds and hundreds of coverless comics in these big long boxes. They’d give me like four or five hundred a shot – old stuff like the origin of Galactus reprints, Alf comics, Justice Society, that sort of thing. So I was interested in that from an early age, and I just started drawing from there. My parents also bought me a bunch of posters of different Batman stuff, and through that I got to know the difference between the Jim Aparo Batman, the Norm Breyfogle Batman, and the Neal Adams Batman… So that’s kind of where I discovered style too, actually. KD: Moving into Archie Snow, the main recurring character you feature in your backup stories for Proof. This was a character you originally created for a series of minicomics a few years back. Where did the idea for the character originally come from? KT: My friend Mike had come up with a few characters that he just liked to draw for no reason, and I was at a point where I felt like I’d like to start writing some stuff myself. So I said, well, why don’t you let me write this character for you. He said okay, and I came up for this origin story and everything for the character – and he hated it, he absolutely hated it. I was like, ‘this is pretty good though… do you mind if I do something with this?’ His response was, ‘yeah, whatever’. Continues on the next page...
book design and help with Matrix magazine, even some collaboratory stuff. I still have that going.
So that’s how that all happened. I started applying for translation grants from the Canada Council, and did Line Gamache’s book Hello, Me Pretty and then Richard Suicide. These were people I knew through Marc Tessier and an anthology that I had been doing, Cyclops, and Mac Tin Tac. This year I’m doing four graphic novels. There’s Philippe Girard’s book, and now Dave Lapp’s book, Children of the Atom.
Howard: That is amazing, congratulations. Brown: Oh well, it’s still a lot of work for no pay. It takes up all my time. Howard: A few years ago you decided to go heavily into the comics and graphic novels. What prompted that?
is the publisher of Conundrum Press, a well-established medium-sized Canadian publisher based in Montreal that has been making the transition from prose publishing to graphic novels.. By Dave Howard Conundrum has published graphic works from such diverse artists as Joe Ollmann, Shary Boyle, and Jillian Tamaki. Lately Andy’s been focusing on translating Quebec artists for English Canada. Dave Howard spoke to Andy over the phone earlier this week about his history, his connection to publishing, and the Quebec comics scene. Howard: Tell me, are you working on Conundrum exclusively? Brown: You mean is it my only job? Oh yes, I haven’t had a day job in a while. Well, this is my day job, my seven-day-a -week job. I freelance design a fair amount, do some art
Kelly Tindall interview So I took different interests I had, like anthropomorphic animals, weird mythology, sword-fighting, gun fighting – and I just mixed it all together, and Archie came out of it. KD: How has Archie changed from what you originally conceived him as to what he appears as in Proof? KT: In the beginning, I spent some time trying to figure out the animal that Archie was going to have the head of. I was originally going to give him the head of a Himalayan Bear, but I also wanted a big part of Archie’s origin to relate to flight – because he was originally a commercial pilot before he became an adventurer. Problem was, it was too much like TaleSpin. Kind of a Baloo the Bear as a pilot thing. So I was like okay, I gotta move away from this idea, and that’s how the Snow Leopard thing came about. Snow Leopards are very noble, they’re predatory, mysterious, and on their own ninety percent of the time… and that just fit with Archie’s character. KD: Do you have any overarching ideas for where you’d like to take Archie in the future? KT: The thing about Archie is that he’s not
Howard: How has Drop-In done? Brown: Oh, it’s been good. It was nominated for a couple of awards, and its first print run is almost sold out. They’re not big runs, but it’s done well, one of the better books I’ve done. Do you know the show Inkstuds? We’re going to be publishing a collection of their interviews in the fall. There’s 30 of them in there, some big names, the list of names is pretty impressive. Jeet Heer is doing the introduction. I’ll have an announcement for TCAF – right now we’re just doing the permissions and figuring art out.
Brown: I started in 1996 doing chapbooks and spokenword type work, with some fiction – I still do some fiction. At the time I had some Montreal writers around me doing some interesting things, and then I met Billy Mavreas, and he was doing the posters for the YAWP! spoken-word series, which I used to go to regularly. Billy was doing a new poster every week, and they were all over my neighbourhood. It was pretty wild, a pretty psychedelic stage for Billy, including some concrete poetry as well. This was long before the Montreal silkscreen posters. So I approached him and we did a book of posters called Mutations, which had a very small print run.
Howard: Inkstuds is a fantastic resource. The host (Robin McConnell) really gets his guests to talk. There’s nothing better than talking to someone about something they love. You’ll be at TCAF in May here in Toronto? Brown: Yes, we’ll have a table, and some signings. Dave Lapp will be there, though he has his own table, and signing books. Philippe Girard will be coming down as well, so that will be nice. That will be a mind blowing experience to have Philippe there – he has something like eight books out in French.
Later we were roommates for a while. He worked at Fichtre! – the comic store – and from there I met Hélène Brosseau and Marc Tessier – that was the francophone connection. I met Howard Chackowicz on the English side, and Joe Ollmann. That was sort of it. And then I met Marc Ngui and people like Dave Lapp in Toronto, and it all just sort of followed, you know? It’s been just in the last eight years.
Howard: Tell me just how much is English Canada missing in terms of the talent that’s in French Canada?
We’ve also published work like Shary Boyle’s collection of drawings – those have done really well. And then Jillian Tamaki. These are all just people I’ve approached based on work I’d seen of theirs.
Brown: Oh my, quite a bit. I could publish three or four books a year for the rest of my life, probably, it just keeps coming. La Pasteque –
really like a Hellboy or a Proof or anything like that because he hasn’t always been this weird creature. He’s relatively new to the world of magical things. So he’s got this sky-high BS detector, and has no patience for any of it but it’s just become his lot in life.
communication program. So that’s where I first met him, and I got to know him from there. Around the time that Proof was starting up, I had finished my first Archie Snow minicomics, and Riley took a look at them and said, ‘well you should work on Proof with us’.
I want to get into what kind of person he was before that, and how who he was affected his current attitudes.
This was months before Proof was picked up, before Image had even indicated an interest in the book.
KD: Outside of the Archie Snow stories, you’ve done some coloring for Proof, a few other backup stories for the title, and some work on a main Proof feature. How far back does your acquaintanceship with Riley Rossmo and Alex Grecian go?
KD: What can you tell me about Squeak, the graphic novel you’re currently working on with Alex Grecian?
KT: It’s a pretty simple premise: it’s the story of a mouse, a completely average Beatrix Potter kind of mouse, that gets bitten by a werewolf. So of Squeak KT: Well I met them an upcoming graphic Preview whenever it gets dark novel by Alex Grecian and Kelly Tindall. both in jail… (laughs) and the moon comes But seriously. I went to ACAD and Riley was out, he turns into a two inch long werewolf. in the class a year behind me in the visual
all those books, mécanique générale, all those books, almost nobody sees those outside of the French market. Drawn and Quarterly obviously, translates Michel Rabagliati's work, which is absolutely a necessary thing. Philippe is involved in more mainstream Quebec. He did a humour strip about his daughter in La Presse for a while, and then there was a book that came out of that. There’s a lot there – there’s as much there, except in French, as in any other city in North America, that’s for sure. And that doesn’t even include the English work. But in Quebec their market is France. Jimmy was just at Angouleme, the main French festival, but even there they get treated like the Quebec cousins – they’re not from France. So Quebec artists are really caught in between. Howard: Michel Rabagliati has just this year won an audience favourite award at Angouleme for the first time, so it’s possible that we’re just breaking in. Brown: But yeah, it’s a whole other world. It’s amazing how it just keeps opening up. Philippe alone puts out one or two books a year. And they’re all very nice people, too. I mean, artists tell me they’re very excited to get their books into English so they can get into comic stores in, like, New York or in The Beguiling for example, and all across North America. It’s really important to them to get published in English, and into the United States. Howard: It sounds as if you’re doing a wonderful service for them – for artists – and their readers. The role of publisher is a very very important role, I don’t think there’s enough attention paid to that. Find Andy online @ conundrumpress.com Orriginaly posted 02/25/2010 @ books.torontoist.com
We’re publishing through AiT/Planet Lar, and it’ll be out sometime this year. We’re getting pretty close to being finished, and I’m actually inking part of the last third of the book today. We’re hoping to get it into shops as soon as we can – within a few months would be great. I really like working on it too, I mean it’s really expressive, there’s lots of energy, and lots of action. There’s almost no dialogue as the characters are all fairly realistic animals – snakes and owls, that sort of thing. KD: To end the interview on a bit of a different note, if you weren’t illustrating or involved with comics at all, what other career could you see yourself doing? KT: I actually helped run a theatre before – like an actual ‘theatre’ theatre, where people put on plays – when my wife and I were living together in Saskatoon. One of my first loves was the stage, and I did a fair share of acting when I was living in Saskatoon and when I was living in Calgary. I could see myself going back to doing something like that. Find Kelly online @ kellytindall.com Originally published on 02/17/2010 by theFablerblog.com
King Trash Wins with Lose: An Interview with Michael DeForge By Bryan Munn Michael DeForge is the 23-yearold cartoonist behind Lose, a comic book series published by art patron/film producer Anne Koyama's Koyama Press. DeForge has been around the edges of the Toronto comics scene for awhile, producing and contributing to zines and creating prints which he sells through his kingtrash.com website, but Lose #1 was one of the surprise events of 2009, revealing a stylish, darkly humourous cartoon sensibility steeped in comics history and love of the medium. Nominated for a Wright Award in the Best Emerging Talent category, DeForge has just released Lose #2, described by the author as "a 24-page horror comic." It will be available (natch) at TCAF 2010. Bryan Munn: The stories in Lose #1 are so funny and accomplished, with great pacing and beautiful art, I'm curious, how did the first issue come about? You were doing comics and art for various zines and self-publishing, I think? How did you go from there to publishing Lose #1 with Anne Koyama? Michael DeForge: I had been doing a lot of experimenting before. Short strips or gags, just feeling it out a bit. A few years ago I tried a weekly web strip that I abandoned. After TCAF of 2009, I felt really crappy that I had been talking about making comics for so long but had never finished one of any significant length. Around the same time, some of the ideas behind Lose #1 started coming together, so I thought "Screw it, I'm just going to take the time to do this." I met Anne Koyama at that same TCAF and we eventually started talking about doing a book together. I showed her the pages I had completed for the comic and she took a chance on it, which I will be
eternally grateful for. BM: Is Koyama Press a one-woman show? Is it essentually a comics press? MDF: It's a one woman show! It's really remarkable how much she's able to do. She puts so much work and care into every step of the publishing process. She's worked with artists on apparel and art prints, too. I wouldn't want to speak to any future plans she might have, but I assume Koyama Press will stay artcentric. BM: What kind of art education did you have? Is the "Dogs in College" strip from Lose #1 based on real experiences? MDF: I didn't have any formal art education past my high school classes. I went to U of T to study English, which is where some of the Dogs in College gags came from. I basically learned to draw by being on the internet all day as a kid. I would bother the artists I admired and ask them for advice, critiques, what books to get, what artists I should know about - stuff like that. BM: Lose #1 has a lot of meta stuff going on with comics, including comics characters in hell and a reimaging of the Justice League of America as teenage slackers and artist wanabees. Did you envision the comic as thematically comics-obsessed or is it more of a reflection of your own interests? MDF: Both. I was thinking a lot about comics and what some of them meant to me, so that ended up being a big part of what the issue was about. But apart from that, I really just enjoy drawing some of these properties. I love drawing Nancy. BM: Last year you did a little book for U.S. publisher Picturebox, Cold Heat Special #7, which was basically an exercise in lettering style and design consisting of you lettering the names of Cold Heat characters in a gothic or heavy metal style. How did that project come about? How did you hook up with
Frank Santoro and Ben Jones and what was that all about? MDF: I met Frank Santoro at TCAF last year. (It feels like I met everybody at TCAF last year.) I'm a big fan of his artwork and his writing on comics so I passed him some zines of mine. He liked a piece I drew where I rewrote the titles of syndicated cartoon strips in faux-metal lettering. He told me he was thinking about doing a Cold Heat Special that was exclusively lettering and logos. We spoke about it via e-mail a few months later, and he gave me the green light to draw it! Cold Heat is a great comic and I was pretty stoked to work on the zine. BM: Lose makes reference to many approaches to doing comics in terms of genres and styles. You seem to have fairly catholic tastes and influences and I've seen you comment on really disparate cartoonists. Can you talk a bit about how you reconcile, say, an interest in Bill Sienkiewicz, Ivan Brunetti,Alex Nino, and David Lapham in your art? What is is that interests you the most in the work of other artists? MDF: I think that generally, I'm most attracted to artists who engage in different types of world-building. Jack Kirby, Mat Brinkman, George Herriman. Their work has its own set of hierarchies and physics, a visual language that is unique to each of them. But then again, I also love David Lapham (or Ivan Brunetti or Jules Feiffer or Howard Chaykin or whoever) for totally different reasons than that. It might just be my attention span. I'd get bored just reading one type of comic. I'm always curious about different genres or different styles of drawing or storytelling. I enjoy reading a straightforward crime story as much as I enjoy, like, some psychedelic neon silkscreened thing. I'm the same way with music and film. BM: What do you like about Alex Nino specifically? I ask because I don't think many people know his work --for a "mainstream" artist he's pretty obscure-and folks may be surprised he has influenced you. MDF: I think I discovered him because my mom was born in the Philippines and I started learning about cartoonists from there. Aside from being an excellent stylist, his layouts were always spectacular. He'd experiment a lot with page design, and his techniques would shift drastically from project to project. There's this one comic he drew called "Nightmare" that I actually haven't found in any back issue bins yet, but I've seen scans of. It's full of these beautiful two-page spreads - it's really something else. BM: What can we look forward to in Lose #2? Any other upcoming projects or events? MDF: Issue two is a bit less dense. I tried to fit a lot of information in the first issue, so I wanted this one to breathe a bit more. It's a horror story about two kids who find some stuff in the woods. I'm doing a few more short stories, too. Some of them will be for anthologies or mini comics and some of them will likely just float around the internet!
Review : Lose #2 by Michael DeForge Published by koyamapress.com 24 pages $5 Lose #1 was one of the more enjoyable surprises in Canadian comic publishing last year and this sophomore effort by DeForge doesn’t disappoint. Where #1 introduced us to the wide range of DeForge’s cartooning talents, from absurdist humour to auotbio fantasy to a taste of slithering horror, #2 is all horror, all the time, an unrelenting apocalyptic tale of suburban decay rendered in a disarming cute style that masks a facility to disturb –think the style of Charles Schulz crossed with the microscopic pathology of Charles Burns. The first story in this anthology-style comic book, “It’s Chip,” tells the tale of a pair of elementary school brothers who make a grisly discovery in the woods near their home. The resultant series of events, involving giant insects, infection, and a disembodied horse head, is the sort of story that gets under your skin. The back-up piece, another adventure of the fruitheaded Nesbit Lemon from the first issue, is a hellish parody that touches on Milton, heroic fantasy, and dietary politics. DeForge has a great sense of pacing and the whole issue reveals a developing mastery of cartooning and black and white, wrapped up in a beautifully ugly colour cover. I’d call it a breath of fresh air if it wouldn’t be more fitting to call it a fetid breath of despair from the depths of cartoon hell. Either way, fun stuff!
Find Michael online @ kingtrash.com Writen with thanks for Sequential Pulp.
JOE OLLMANN BRINGS HIS MID-LIFE CRISIS TO D+Q
Award-Winning Cartoonist Talks About Turning 40 and being a Midwife to Mid-Life by Bryan Munn Joe Ollmann is one of my favourite cartoonists. His scratchy angular angry big steaming sliceof-life comics are beautiful and bittersweet minimasterpieces. The Montreal-based cartoonist has several book collections of his graphic short stories out and the last one, This Will All End In Tears, won the Doug Wright Award for Best Book in 2008. Ollmann’s latest opus, a mostly-autobiographical graphic memoir entitled Mid-Life, has just been picked up by Drawn and Quarterly and will be published in 2011. Of the book, Ollmann has said with typical selfdeprecation, “until now, I’ve been the un-marketable entity that made short story comics when the slavering masses are drooling for ‘GRAPHIC NOVELS.’ With this book, in which I appear in my underpants on what seems to be 90% of the pages, I am sure to be catapulted into some kind of hot-property-like-comicystardom.” Sequential caught up with Ollmann via email just as he was about to plunge into a pair of new projects and asked him about the process of bringing the book to print. “I finished the book last summer, but then spent a long time, scanning, editing, redrawing, fixing lettering etc. Sam Haywood at Transatlantic is my agent, she wanted a good, clean version of the book before we shipped it around. I have an agent since the last book won the Doug Wright Award and thought the cred from that could help get the book placed with a bigger publisher. I sent the book to D&Q unofficially as we live in the same city and I see Chris and Tom and Peggy at barbecues and kid parties, so there was that, then Sam sent the manuscript officially as a submission and they sent us an offer and we accepted it. Well, I was a lot more excited than that. I’ve followed D&Q since the first issue of the comic back in the day and I have massive amounts of respect for Chris and the company, so it’s a dream come true to be published by them. The book is scheduled to come out in winter 2011, which seems like a hundred years when the book was done last summer, but that’s part of being published by a bigger company, they move slower and make sure everything is done correctly.” Was he at all tempted to self-publish under his own Wag Press imprint?
younger second wife after turning 40 and also having two adult kids from my previous marriage. But there are a bunch of other story lines in there that are fictional or semi-fictional. Not sure how much I will get into discussing what’s real and what’s fake yet. But shit, yeah, I’m still having a mid-life crisis. Getting old is traumatic.” Joe Ollmann talks a bit about the the creative process: “The creative process is the same old story for any cartoonist, at the end of the day, go down the stairs, sit at the drawing table and work for as long as you can, eventually you’ll have something at the end of it. Just, dumb old slogging really. When the script was done, I sent it to all the people who have fictitious counterparts in the story and then got down to drawing it.” What’s next for Joe Ollmann? “I’m writing 2 new books right now, one is three long, short-stories of the depressing kind that appeared in my previous books, the other is a long biography of the 1930’s adventure/travel writer William Seabrook. He was an alcoholic bondage enthusiast, and a one-time cannibal. he brought the word zombie into the English language, was one of the highest paid writers of his day, and he’s virtually unknown today. So, that one is requiring a lot of research and buying expensive old books and trying not to make it read like bad old classic comics: ‘World war Two happened, then he fell in love. He caught TB’ all in one panel, you know?” —– Joe Ollman www.wagpress.net Bibliography: Chewing On Tinfoil, Insomniac Press (2002)
“I self-published in the 80’s and I’d rather be shot in the face than do that again, I’ve got the business acumen of a turd.”
The Big Book Of Wag, Conundrum Press (2005)
Is he having a mid-life crisis?
This Will All End in Tears, Insomniac Press (2006)
“The book is called Mid-Life and it is partially based on real events, of having turned 40, having a kid with my
by Lesley Fairfield Tundra Books $12.99 isbn 978-0-887776-903-0 This is a graphic novel about anorexia told from the point of view of “Anna” but based on cartoonist Lesley Fairfield’s harrowing thirtyyear battle with the “tyranny” of anorexia and bulimia. Fairfield has a loose, appealingly scribbly style that gives a light-comic undertone to her narrative but also makes her expressive characters sympathetic and “approachable” which, in terms of getting across the theme of her book, that body image issues and eating disorders are near universal but conquerable with therapy and the help of friends and family, is more important in this type of book than in a traditional autobio memoir. In this sense, Fairfield’s background in advertising stands her in good stead, enhancing what at times threatens to become a cliched talky self-help memoir with humour and easy-to-follow graphics.
by Line Gamache Conundrum Press $15 translated by KerryAnn Cochrane isbn 978-1-894994-43-9 The second Gamache book from Conumdrum’s BDAng imprint, Poof! is an extended metaphor about the perils of the creative act. It follows Gamache on her quest to retrieve her lost “inspiration”, a freaky trickster being that springs out of her mouth and runs away on a crosscountry chase through a weird fantasy-land. Gamache has a goofy, rubbery, high school notebook art style and the comic comes across as a somewhat naive cross between a Julie Doucet dream sequence and Heinz Edelmann’s designs for Yellow Submarine. The “writer’s block” plot and Gamache’s theme of “if you follow your inspiration you will create art” are either laboured or charming, depending on your mood, and are partly redeemed by a few comic touches, including the arch comments of Gamache’s dog Kiki, a sort of surreal version of Tintin’s Snowy who is sometimes the smartest person in the room .
A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross Fantagraphics $19.99 isbn 978-1-56097-956-2
This is the second volume in a trilogy of partly auto-bio school memoirs from this young cartoonist. Author stand-in Melissa experiences high school as an outsider artist-type, with an anorexic best friend, drug experimentation, faltering attempts at sex, and generalized suburban angst. The book is broken up into a series of short chapters illustrating humiliating episodes, arguments and epiphanies, accompanied by Lasko-Gross’ thought-balloon-encased commentary, rants and self-help-style pep-talks. Within this framework, Lasko-Gross covers the usual Holden Caulfield territory with brevity and an eye for detail. Her cartooning is very expressive and the book is coloured in subdued wash-like tones of brown, grey, and blue that enhance the emotional impact of her cringe-worthy struggles for independance and individuality.
Review: Wilson The New Graphic Novel by Daniel Clowes By Dave Howard
Dan Clowes’ Wilson is one of the most anticipated graphic novels to arrive in stores for some time, written as it is by one of the most respected pioneers of “alternative” comics. One of Clowes’ earliest graphic novels, Ghost World, a story of two alienated teenage girls’ dissolving friendship set against the limiting possibilities of middle-class America, received wide acceptance and was made into a critically acclaimed film. Clowes was co-nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay. When Clowes turns his critical eye to a topic, very little escapes his scorn. His collection of stories around the fictional character Dan Pussey is a scathing commentary of the maledominated, emotionally stunted comic-book culture. His short story “Art School Confidential” has long been cited by art-school survivors as a bang-on critique up of all that is wrong and limiting in the pretentious–and often untalented–art world that shuns illustration and comics. When his short story “Caricature”– a dark epiphany of meaninglessness in an aging caricature artist’s life–first appeared in Clowes’ comic book Eightball, it set the bar for North American alternative cartoonists, demonstrating the depth and maturity of what can be done in the medium.
His subsequent graphic novels, David Boring (Pantheon Books, 2000) and Ice Haven (Pantheon 2005), both received considerable critical acclaim for their commentary on society and their inventive storytelling techniques. Clowes has described David Boring as his attempt at creating a comic that could not be made into a film. In Ice Haven, the story unfolds as a fragmented series of cartoon strips drawn in different styles the view a single event. Both books challenge the reader to see more than is presented on the page. Wilson is the first graphic novel to be released without first being serialized in Eightball, or any other venue, which makes its release that much more anticipated (it is to be released at TCAF in May–and Clowes himself will be giving a presentation on the book). Wilson does not disappoint. It is a masterwork that distils the existential themes touched upon in almost all of Clowes’ previous work. Wilson is an asshole, a self-absorbed childish jerk who manages to remain a somewhat sympathetic character. Wilson is a single, middle-aged man in a great deal of pain, trying to reach out and find a connection to something bigger than himself–even if it’s just one other individual–but his constant negativity, his complete lack of empathy, and his adolescent self-
absorption and bossy nature drives everyone away. It is as if he has a mild form of autism or his character is the result of years of undiagnosed Asperger syndrome. Like Clowes earlier novel, Ice Haven, Wilson is told in comic strips; unlike Ice Haven, the format is not crucial or as obvious in the telling of the story. Each strip is an unwavering six panel, page-long segment. Each page has a simple title and a punch-line, and varies only among a few drawing styles–all of which reference Clowes’ own drawing styles in Eightball. Each strip lays down the story brick by brick in a repetitive fashion, and it is this narrative strategy that most effectively moves the reader. Each of Wilson’s interactions, each page with a punchline, is both tragic and absolutely hilarious. Interspersing tragic and comic pages, the reader participates in an understanding of Wilson’s interactions with other people. We laugh at what he says and at his immature jokes, but we are also aware of the repulsion of his victims and understand that these vignettes, taken together, are not very funny at all. Pieces of information outside of Wilson’s view are only imagined by the reader. There is no narration, no narrative voice other than order of the drawings. There are no word balloons to tell us what other characters are saying on the other end of the phone. We are in the room with Wilson himself, but not in his head.
Because Wilson is pared down to the life of a single character, we can focus on the existential dilemma Clowes puts before us without distraction. Wilson cannot connect, try as he might. His father passes away, an event that stirs thoughts of his own mortality, and so he attempts, in his own perverse way, to re-create a nuclear family, thinking that doing so will grant him the feeling for others he needs in order to connect. He thinks he can do this by staring at the ocean, as his parents used to do when he was a child. Wilson is very readable, and it’s Clowes’ best work to date. It can be read as a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when a person fails to empathize, or as a judgement upon the impossibility of empathy. I believe this work seals Clowes reputation as a modern day American Albert Camus. And the comedic timing is totally fucking hilarious.
Published orignaly on books.torontoist.com 04/14/2010 Published by Drawn and Quarterly Full Color, 80 pages, 8 1/4 by 11 1/2 inches ISBN: 9781770460072 $21.95 US / $22.95 CDN drawnandquarterly.com
Six page preview of
by John Martz
A Seth notebook:
The Englishness of Seth. By Jeet Heer
Seth is of course quintessentially Canadian. Look at all his investigations into the rolling landscapes of Ontario and Prince Edward Island, his work in mapping out a Canadian cartooning tradition through the Doug Wright Awards and the Doug Wright book (among other projects), his indebtedness to Canadian artists like Thoreau Macdonald. Still, no less than the United States or Argentina, Canada is a creole nation made up of the mix of many ethnicities. Like most Canadians, Seth is a mutt but one stand of his heritage is worth a closer look. His mother was English, a war bride who came to Canada after marrying Seth’s dad. How does Englishness inform Seth’s work? He’s more appreciative of the British cartooning tradition than any other North American cartoonist I can think of, quick to praise Raymond Briggs, Chris Reynolds, H.M. Bateman, even the various lowly journeymen who work on strips like “Our Wullie” (Scottish, not English, but close enough…) The puckness of Seth’s wit is very English. Isn’t Wimbledon Green a supremely English title?
Of course, Englishness and Canadianness are tightly woven strands, not so much now but in
the years of Seth’s youth, when the after-taste of the empire still clung around. TV networks gave big play to Coronation Street and Benny Hill, and Canada still felt like a distant hinterland outpost of the a metropolitan empire. Perhaps Seth’s love of ceremony and display – as witness all the elaborate fun of the Doug Wright Awards – is also an English trait, a hangover from the pomp of the royal court. Letting the wit out. When the full arc of Seth’s career is apparent, I think Wimbledon Green will loom as an important turning point. Seth’s always been a witty man, but prior to Wimbledon Green, he never had a means for getting his sense of fun down on paper. George Sprott wouldn’t have had the sly wit it possesses if not for Wimbledeon Green. Doug Wright and John Stanley. The two cartoonist Seth has worked hardest to revive has some similarities. Neither man was a virtuoso like Kirby or Kurtzman, someone whose talent can be made clear with a single vivid page. Both were nearly anonymous journeymen artists, modest, hardworking, content to work with other people’s characters for years on end, willing to move from genre to genre. These are personality traits as well as artistic ones. They were like Kalo from It’s A Good Life. George Sprott: (1894-1975) by Seth is one of The Doug Wright Awards finalists for Best Book. Find Wimbledon Green and other books by Seth @ drawnandquarterly.com Find Jeet online @ jeetheer.com
Writen with thanks for Sequential Pulp.
Nina Bunjevac By Dave Howard
Nina Bunjevac is a true rarity: a talented installation artist, sculptor, and painter known for her surreal and photo-realistic paintings who all but left behind those media to pursue her love for the comic arts. Not only has Bunjevac taught at Maxx the Mutt’s comics program, been invited to show work with underground legend Alexandar Zograf, and participate in Rome’s CRACK conference, her work will now grace U.S. underground zine Mineshaft, along side contributions by such artists as underground legend Robert Crumb, Pullitzer Prize winning Art Spiegelman, and many others. Nina spoke with me last week about the importance of comics as an expression of culture and individuality. Howard: Tell me about Mineshaft. You’ve just been included in this high-profile magazine. Bunjevac: Mineshaft is an American zine that comes from North Carolina, but they regularly feature work by Crumb–usually his dream diary or his letters to the magazine. Sometimes little strips, little illustrations from his sketchbooks. They regularly feature Kim Deitch, Jay Lynch, and this issue will also feature Art Spiegelman. My art will be appearing this issue, and I am very very very happy about it. Very excited. The cover drawing is done by Sophie Crumb as well as the logo. The beautiful red overlay is done by Robert crumb. My illustration will be on the back. Howard: Do you think this is the kind of publication you think new cartoonists should pick up? Bunjevac: You can go online and take a look. They also feature poetry and photography. I definitely recommend it. Really, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s probably the closest thing to the way the things were in the ’60s in the comics underground. I mean this publication is very true to it. It’s a very small run, you know what I mean? It’s not this huge publication, you can’t really find it in the World’s News, but you would be able to source it out through comic book stores and certain bookstores. And you can order online.
the world, from Europe, from Asia, South America, Latin America. The Canadian scene is not the only one, there’s multiple scenes all over the world who are really happy to exchange work and ideas. And that’s a really great way of getting out there. Howard: That is excellent advice. I know Kean Soo here in Toronto, author of Jellaby, he found his community online, and lots of them are in Toronto–but he didn’t meet them that way! Bunjevac: The internet is amazing for cartoonists, especially, because you can spread your work really fast. You have more computers in the world that are capable of reading a regular jpeg than computers that can play a Youtube video, you know? Images are very accessible. And it’s a really good way for cartoonists to network. You know, they don’t really get out much, they’re way too busy. Howard: And cartooning is such a solitary thing. Bunjevac: It’s so solitary–I quit my job at Maxx the Mutt in September to do my own work on comics, I just didn’t have enough time to do both, and I’m surprised, now that I work from home, that I work more. I really don’t leave my place, unless I absolutely need to. Which is very isolating, but, you know, it’s different. It’s a different life style I have than when I was painting, which is very strange and I have no idea why, maybe it came with age, I don’t know. Howard: That is an interesting thing. That means then what is the source of what is being accessed in an artist for comics is different than the source of what is being accessed to do painting. Bunjevac: Oh, exactly. And back when I was painting in my 20s, I would have people over in my studio to paint, and the whole party would go on while I was painting–with me actually participating in the party while I was painting. With comics it’s completely different, even though you can take your sketchpad and put it on your lap, and take your little ink pen from your pencil holder, and you can take it anywhere you want, but it’s different. And I don’t know what it is. Continues on page 19 >
Howard: Do you have any advice for new cartoonists in Toronto? What should they do to help them pursue their dream? Bunjevac: Don’t think about what people will like. Develop your own style, your own voice. Wash dishes if you have to in a restaurant. Don’t settle for smaller “creative” jobs that will jeopardize your creative process and make you resent what you do. And in short, find other ways to generate income and be true to what you do. And stay persistent, get online and connect with people. That’s what collectives do from the other side of
See the full story at JOHNMARTZ.COM/COMICS Or pick up a copy of the mini at TCAF 2010!
Cover art for Hair Shirt
Pat McEown has always been a bit of a Chimera. By Robin Fisher Popping up here and there on the comic book scene like a mythical creature, his talent demanded I own everything he created. He’s also had a comic career so disparate and infrequent, I treasure what I've found and love hunting for what I’m missing. A Canadian artist who was working at the beginning of the black and white boom for Aircel in the 80's, contributed seminally to the Grendel mythos with War Child and Homecoming in the 90's, illustrated Zombie World for Mike Mignola in 97, and later appeared in various anthologies like Hearthrobs, Flinch, Scatterbrain, Strange Adventures, DHP, Guff, Hellboy Jr and Bizzaro Comics.
Being only minorly bilingual it took me all of one hour to decide to get it regardless. I've read the book 8 times now and I always see something new in the panels, comprehend just a bit more of the story, and find it a little more spooky each time. It's a weird way to read a comic, but completely appropriate when you learn about McEown’s own trajectory in the comic industry. Pat McEown was born in Ottawa during the late 60's. He had been drawing since the age of 6, influenced by his older brother’s love of comics. “I was 9 when my brother brought home the first issue of Heavy Metal.” By the time he was 12, he had started drawing his own comics. In 1980 McEown was introduced to Barry Blair through Dave Cooper.
Panel from Sour Milks
Part of his sporadicness was due to his determination to complete his Fine Arts Degrees. (BFA 2003, MFA 2008) The other part, his burgeoning animation career: storyboarding and doing character designs for Batman Beyond, X-Men Evolution, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman and currently The Venture Brothers. To this day there are still Pat McEown comics I'm looking for. He did a UK-only Mask one-shot. There's a comic strip for an early incarnation of Vice Magazine. A Dark Horse Presents story with Ed Brubaker and a Hellblazer fill-in.
When his new book Hair Shirt came out this year, I had completely forgotten that it was going to be in French.
I know it seems a little obsessive compulsive but McEown's art evolves in such interesting leaps and bounds, I have to have it all.
“I didn't have a burning ambition to be a cartoonist, it was just something I did a lot.” Blair had founded a publishing company called Aircel and offered McEown some work. “I was kind of doing a little bit of everything depending on what need to be done.” He worked with Aircel on and off for 5 years. In 1987 McEown parted company with Aircel for the last time. A few years later, through Bernie Mireault he met Matt Wagner. They agreed to produce a Grendel comic together, though shortly after, their publisher Comico, folded. Continues on page 20 >
Nina Bunjevac: Continues from page 17 Howard: It makes me think of the writing component. If you are writing and you have a laptop at a café, you block out everybody else. But with drawing, you can all draw a figure, the same figure, and there’s 12 people in the room and you can talk to each other. Bunjevac: I agree with that. Howard: Who do you read, what artists do you read or recommend? Bunjevac: That’s funny because recently I’ve gotten a copy of Crumb’s Genesis and I thought, “Oh my god, I know it’s Crumb, but it’s the bloody Bible!” You know what I mean? I just look at the pictures! I really like what he did with that, it’s a collectible, you really have to have one, I really believe that he did a wonderful job. I’m a big fan of the US underground, some of my biggest influences were [Charles] Burns, and Crumb, again, I really liked the guy who did Flash Gordon, Alex Raymond. I really like his style, I like that romantic vintage style of drawing. Howard: Dave Sim is trying to explore that in his new Glamourpuss comic. Bunjevac: Next to that I haven’t had much time to read. There’s a couple of books I’d eventually like to turn into graphic novels. I have three on my shelf and I haven’t yet made up my mind when I’m going to start working on it. One of these days you know? Howard: Are there other people in Europe who you’ve connected with? Zograf? Bunjevac: Alexander Zograf–he’s really one of my favourite artists in Europe. His background is in journalism. To really appreciate Zograf, you have to read him. His comics are just wonderful social commentary. Howard: Necessary social commentary? Bunjevac: Definitely necessary social commentary. He’s a huge influence on me, he was actually the first person that I connected with in the Balkans scene. That was some years ago when I was working on editing a copy of dtm, and I had met some artists from different parts of the world, from Italy and Argentina and on, and I was still looking for some people. And, at one point when I was looking through his book, Regards from Serbia, I decided to give him call and get in touch. That’s how it started. I was eventually offered a show in Zograf’s home town of Pancevo in 2007 and in Belgrade. Since then I’ve made it a habit of visiting regularly, at least once a year. The scene over there is just really rich. Everyone seems to be doing comics in the Balkan underground–not making much money out of it, but really sticking to it. Howard: It sounds really vital. Bunjevac: It is really vital. They have taken it, the comics, the medium of comics, really seriously. And just what we were talking about, in some ways, I can see that the scene in the Balkans is about 20 years ahead of North America. And I’m talking generationally, I’m talking about this generation doing work. I mean I can’t categorize the whole population of North American comic book artists. But as far as our generation goes, the people over there in Europe are way way far ahead. Especially as a community. These people get together and draw regularly, and there’s always certain
events and we’re talking about a country who have been economically exhausted, there’s hardly any money–but there’s always money coming from somewhere to publish a new book, a new magazine. Howard: Because it’s important. Bunjevac: Because it’s important, culture’s a very important part of life. You know, we don’t have as much of that in Canada. What we have is so commercialized, you know? Howard: It takes away from its vitality? It’s entertainment rather than social commentary? Bunjevac: It’s safe and it’s commercial art, you know? I really hate to say things like this, you know, an artist in Canada heavily depends on government grants. They’re available, but you have to fit into a certain category. And you have to have Canadian content. And so, instead of looking for brilliance in work, they’re looking for Canadian content. So you know, aside from that, it’s sad, you know? We’re light years behind our neighbours south, actually. Which I hate to say. Howard: Yeah? Bunjevac: Yeah, but… it’s true. Howard: If it’s true then it’s true. And we should know that. Bunjevac: I don’t want to sound negative or anything. Howard: Understanding the scene is…the first step! (laughs) Bunjevac: Exactly. But then you have to have a scene to understand. Right? Howard: Oh, I see. I got it. Bunjevac: I mean I have a handful of friends who are cartoonists in Toronto. They’re fabulous guys, you know but it’s a handful. When I go to Europe, there’s dozens, everywhere you go. So, it’s that type of thing. Howard: I am very interested in what you said once. I’d said something like there needs to be more Nicolaides (a method of drawing) in comics, and you said “Nicolaides is not enough.” What did you mean by that? What is your ideal education? Continues on page 21 >
Pat McEown: Continues from page 18 In 1992, after being picked up by Dark Horse Comics, McEown illustrated 10 issues for Grendel: War and a 3 issue mini-series Grendel: Homecoming, (in 1994). War Child was a nicely drawn, clean, professional looking series of comics, accomplished and interesting to look at as well. It’s unfortunate that the inking gives it the stamp of a Grendelworld book. Stylistically original, McEown’s art had certainly matured since his Aircel days. Homecoming on the other hand, was an entirely different and better beast. There is no way you can work with Dave Cooper without him leaving his beautiful lush ooze all over it. The first issue appeared as though the men were trying to find a middle ground between painting and comic art and failed. By the second and third issue though, it all coalesced magnificently and you have this incredibly stylish and groovy comic, drawn in McEown's graceful and slick pencils with Cooper's lovely coloured ick everywhere. McEown’s work had evolved, and while it was still as accomplished as before, his own voice was finally coming to the forefront. In 1997 his friendship with Mike Mignola spawned Zombie World: Champion of Worms, a 3 issue mini series published by Dark Horse. Drawn by McEown, it represents another leap in his yet more polished style. His art, while always tight, was cuter, smaller, more cinematic in scale and sequence, as well as even more iconic looking. Stylish and smooth, the backgrounds looked like they were inked by a member of the EC crew. “It was around that time that I was drifting away from mainstream comic books. I was always interested in what was going on in independent comics. I was reading a lot more strip art from the 10's and 20's, people like Herge obviously, a lot of the French clean line stuff, people like Yves Chaland.” Starting in 1998 McEown found himself involved in animation. As a storyboard artist and character designer, he worked on such cartoons as Batman Beyond and X-Men Evolution, learning as he went. It was also that year that he contributed a charming piece to Bob Fingerman's Minimum Wage. The art style in Hormones again took a bit of a leap from the heroic poses and squinty eyed glares of his Grendel days. With a shaky, unpredictable organic line, he wrote and drew big-headed Pats and various yummily drawn Girlfriends of the Past. The plot is about his cartoony everyman tales outlining the foils of being a girl crazy slave due to rampant hormones. “I've always felt really beholden to the craft of comics, often too much so, in fact, so I've periodically tried to shake off some of that baggage through playing around with elements of the form.”
lot of ways for me, because I really wanted to play around with the mechanics of the medium.” The genius of the strip was that you could read it up, down, backwards, forwards, pretty much any way and get a neato story out of it. The variety, cleverness and fluidity of it, was seamless. Like a sexy Loony Tunes gone awry. From 2000 on he appeared in one anthology a year, mostly doing short stories written by other people. Then there was nothing for 2 years. Finally during the summer of 2005 he appeared in the Dark Horse Anthology, The Book of the Dead. Another step in his art style evolution found him using a more thin, scratchy and fragile looking line. To me it appears more European in style than anything else he had done previously. A bleak tale of a monks battle with his ex-love who’s now become his enemy, had clever wordplay also written by McEown. The pencils implied a sly sensibility in The Queen of Darkness, the rendering, a deep density through sketchiness. There was also his ingenuitive panel layout that created time and detail with his line work. McEown’s mastery of space, that he seemed to possess quite early in his career, exuded giant dimension, panel by wee panel. It was a sweet little piece with a challenging ending. A strange fit and start that would be the precursor to Hair Shirt. For 5 years after that, the publishing world saw neither hide nor hair of McEown. I heard about a graphic novel he was working on from some friends but it seemed like a long time coming. In mid 2008 I was fortunate enough to catch his final assignment for his Masters Degree in the form of an art installation.
Detail from Luna Park
“It was an installation I did along with some large scale drawing and some sculpture too. One was a 20ft hanging sweater thing……that was knit by Andrea Vander Kooij. I more or less commissioned it and then gave her the specifications. It was really about narrative and it was about this psychological landscape and kind of projecting it onto this space.”
In 1999 he did 3 short pieces for 3 different anthologies and a genius 10 pager, in Weasel #1. Entitled No Escape, it should have been printed as a giant scroll of a comic. While attending University, McEown found himself happily challenged through class assignments. Majoring in Painting and Photography, he was always curious to see how far he could take his art and all of it's underlying narrative.
The walls were the panels and each image bleed into the next creating an mercurial art experience and for me, one fraught with resonance. It was a cacophony of images with landscapes of huge expanses, in black and white ink, that were in turn dense and dirty as well as spotless and empty. Melded with indoor underground piping, silent forests and weather beaten rickety shacks, it reeked of Ontario Townships and time spent at Gramma's in Thamesford.
“That was what led to the Weasel strip in a
Continues on page 21
Nina Bunjevac: Continues from page 19
Howard: That’s…very thoughtful.
Bunjevac: Oh, what is my ideal art education? Number one, I don’t think students should be able to touch figure drawing until year three. That’s one thing. It’s very important to spend the first two years of drawing with the basic principles, starting with measuring and proportion down to the line and tone, etc. I believe that in the first year the students should focus on the main geometric shapes, really focus on them over a really long period of time, and then move on to the plaster casts for about a year and then to the figure drawing. And I think the same principle should be applied to figure drawing. Nicolaides should be added in for no more than one hour a day. You can always start a session with a series of gestures and close it with a blind contour or a cross contour or vice versa, you can work that out every day could be something different.
Bunjevac: Well…I had to share it (laughs). I love teaching and you know, it takes time, it takes time. You have art schools that run for seven to eight years in Russia, people come out of it being able to draw blindfolded, basically.
Introducing life drawing and introducing Nicolaides at such an early level is hoping to breathe life into something that is still a shapeless hunk of clay. I think it creates more confusion. I’m a firm believer that you have to construct something before you can deconstruct it.
Find Nina online @ ninabunjevac.com
Pat McEown: Continues from page 20
did that during my summer semester…… and they liked it and they were willing to wait until I was finished my course work.”
“It was a long a tunnel like room divided into three sections. It was a sequential narrative of 3 spaces that kind of fed back into each other, so you’re guided through by this sweater……and in each room there’s a different sort of visual event.” The size of the exhibit and the giant in your face tactility of the sweater also made for an overwhelming art experience, one that I relished. “The graphic novel does inform the installation. They sort of play off each other. But they are still very different things…..thematically they’re really linked. It’s like everything that’s not in the installation is in the graphic novel.” During that 5 years McEown completed his Masters. “The degree was something I did because I really needed to do it. I needed to have an outlet for other ideas and to explore other possibilities.” After working on The Dark Horse Book of the Dead, Dave Cooper sent jpgs of The Queen of Darkness to Joann Sfar. “When Dave sent my work of to Joann and Lewis Trondheim, they got back to me almost immediately. They approached me about maybe doing something for their Donjon series…….but they didn’t have anything for me right away. At that point Joann was just about to be head hunted by Gallimard, which is this, you know, one of France’s oldest and most venerated publishers. So he was sort of saying, “Hang on, I may have a project that’s perfect for you.”” By this time McEown was in Montreal and going to grad school. “He offered me this 122 page graphic novel. It was like, “If you want to write and draw one, send us a one or two page proposal and outline, as well as 10 pages of original artwork.” So I
Howard: Where as here it’s three years, four years. Bunjevac: Oh, you can’t do anything in three years. Four years, yeah … maybe. Three years you can’t do anything, it’s impossible. Plus I’m a big believer in talent. I think that you have to start from having an affinity for something–not an affinity, but a better … ability to handle certain things, you know? When you explore talent, at what you’re good at, I believe you tap into your life purpose.
Published originally on 4/07/2010 by books.torontoist.com
McEown then took a year to teach Introductory Drawing at Concordia University and planned, sketched and drew what would become Hair Shirt. “It was a story that had been, I guess simmering on the back burner for awhile. I had chapters written and characters somewhat developed. They had appeared briefly in a sketchbook section of Sturgeon White Moss #4.” Hair Shirt was released by Gallimard in January of 2010. While the book is geared towards teens there are still some pretty dark and difficult themes, like bullying, guilt, love and death. “It's not that I've had a very dark childhood or anything like that. But I've always been interested in the things that are unspoken, and things that are repressed.” Hair Shirt was written by McEown, a rare occasion the last 10 years. It's always fascinating to see what good artists are up to when left to their own devices, Hair Shirt is no exception. “I would say the graphic novel has some striking resemblances to earlier work, which I was surprised to see. After all those years I was still working through a lot of the same themes, albeit with greater sensitivity to their implications.” Hair Shirt is a love story. It starts with former teen lovers John & Naomi finding each other again, long after the death of her older brother had separated them. Supposedly older and wiser now the relationship is rekindled but is overcome by John's memories, secrets, guilt and returning nightmares. Nightmares of dog boys, giant never ending strands of hair, abandoned buildings, quiet suburban Anywhere, Canada and enveloping, suffocating bewilderment. Continues on page 22 >
Pat McEown: Continues from page 21 “It’s a dark little story, it’s semiautobiographical. It’s almost entirely real life stuff, reconfigured to work together as a linear narrative. There’s some sort of surreal elements to it but it’s not like magical realism, per se. The events are more to do with John’s subjective state of mind rather than being broadly metaphorical or supernatural. They’re probably dreams but it’s never really articulated. It’s kind of a failed romance and a ghost story.” There are no answers to be found in Hair Shirt. Confusion reigns as past, present, reality and dreamland all meld into one, making angst the thin veneer that coats the story. It all leads to some heavy handed melodrama but McEown has a fine ear for dialogue which adds to the story's believability. I also adore its tiny laser beams of humour that artfully sneaks up on you. Directions of eyes, the Boobs on your Head song, being so stoned your room’s in zero gravity and your head is literally in the clouds. This graphic novel charms. It also leaves one with a mild uneasy and disturbed aftertaste of fear thanks to McEown's inks. Employing the same dense, cross hatching, sketchy style as The Queen of Darkness, McEown uses it this time to create deep dark enclosed spaces. Like claustrophobic snow covered alleyways or hot crowded house parties, and yet it still manages to be refined and expressive. “It was a bit of a challenge to do the graphic novel, because the drawing really has to serve the story.”
His panel layout also adds to much of the fun, fluctuating between here and now, then and there and Never Never Land. The characters as adorable and simply delineated like The Queen of Darkness, were at other points all skinny snaky bodies and snaky hair. Panels tilt with the lilting stagger of a drunk girl. At a house party see John do a Plastic Man zipzoop to get to Naomi. It's the little details that really make Hair Shirt a pleasure to read. “There was a lot more rendering……so it was really hard to colour. It’s just that with all that kind of hatching and rendering, it’s really kind of hard to select areas if you are colouring it on the computer.” From the deep blue of a winter’s night, to the muted teal of the tavern, muddy brick for the stoned sessions with Ivy, the sunflower ochre of the cafe, the bile yellow of surreptitious jealousy and the warm rose and cornflower blue of a hopeful ending. The colourist, Liz Artinian is truly a revelation and adds so much to the mood of each moment and scene. Hair Shirt is a very hard book to put down without finishing. This book needs to be published in English, for the legion that admire his work already and for the rest to finally get in line. For now, the Chimera rests. Who knows when the widely talented mythical beast will show his glorious plumage next. Pat is not online, but you can get his latest book Hair Shirt from Gallimard @ www.bd.gallimard.fr Find Robin hosting the Onomatopoeia Show online @ www.cartoongal.com
Writen with thanks for Sequential Pulp.
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SEQUENTIAL PULP 2010 EDITION