April 24, 2015

A Girl Who Shape-Shifts Into A Boy To Get Her Dream Girl: An Interview with Jennie Wood about FLUTTER

Jennie Wood and Jeff McComsey have a Kickstarter going to support the printing of their LGBTQ indie comic Flutter, Volume 2. Jennie graciously agreed to an interview in which we talk about Flutter, diversity, backlash, hypocrisy, and Kickstarter.

"It’s important that we see ourselves in the stories that we put out there. The push for diversity is this need, this desire to see ourselves reflected in comics. The push against it’s from those who fear that they’ll lose their place in it, their reflection. What we need to realize – and all of us need to realize and remind each other of this – is that there’s room for all of us in comics. The audience for comics is growing. At every comic convention I meet more and more people who are there for the first time, exploring comics for the first time."

April 22, 2015

The Risograph Effect: Reviewing Conor Stechschulte's GENEROUS BOSOM – Part One

After many months, my friend Jason Sacks finally got me to put words to my unclear thoughts concerning Conor Stechschulte's brilliant new book GENEROUS BOSOM part one.

Think of something aesthetically profound as the thermal plate. Think of your response to it as the ink. That response, being forced through the voids in the plate as it is, does not make for a lucid response. Something else ends up happening and a writer is left with little other than writing about his or her inability to write anything at all.
Joyce Carol Oates once said, “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.” With Generous Bosom, though, because of its pull, I’m trapped in this Risograph Effect. 

April 21, 2015

My Continuing Crisis: Writing on CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #2


As some sort of "self-flagellation psychological experiment", I agreed to take part in Comics Bulletin's celebration of the 30th anniversary of DC Comics' FIRST MAJOR CROSSOVER EVENT, Crisis on Infinite Earths.

When you remove the subtly of moral fluidity, when you call people simply heroes tried and true, you grant them the power to do as they will because we trust them to do right, and we’ve all seen how wrong that can go, the horrible things done in the name of What’s Right Black And White.

April 20, 2015

A Hard Rain's Gunna Fall – Reviewing the New Zealand Comic Anthology FACTION PRESENTS: HIGH WATER

Damon Keen has been editing the consistently impressive New Zealand comic anthology Faction for the past couple of years now. For the new “special” issue, High Water, he once again gathers a diverse group of Kiwi comics creators to tackle a specific topic: Climate Change.

Thematic anthologies are a tricky business, I imagine. Go too long and readers might suffer from theme fatigue; too short and you run the risk of seeming too narrow in your focus. High Water is kind of like the Baby Bear in whatever Goldilocks metaphor I might be constructing here. It's just right.

Still, another problem inherent in gathering a bunch of creators together to interpret the same theme is that there arises the inevitable compulsion to compare each artist's interpretation with the others in the collection. It makes weaker contributions seem that much weaker, though it also pushes the truly original and inventive pieces to the fore.

It takes careful stewardship to keep balance. Keen has done a pretty good job of this in High Water.

Contributors to High Water include Chris Slane, Christian Pearce, Cory Mathis, Dylan Horrocks, Jonathan King, Katie O’Neill, Ned Wenlock, Ross Murray, Sarah Laing, Toby Morris, and Keen himself. It also features additional artwork by Lei Wen, Ant Sang, and an amazing cover by Tim Gibson.

Each artist mostly focuses on the after effects of rising oceans due to climate change. In this future world of water, there is little left for humanity. What is left, though, is a blank page upon which to tell great stories.

While the presentations range from visceral canticles of loss to finger wagging admonitions about the outcome of doing nothing to satirical takes on the root causes of the crisis, each piece still speaks to the core issue. If a change doesn't come soon, a change will be forced upon us.

I'm not going to go into all the pieces in this anthology, but I do want to give a nod to a few that particularly stood out.

First is Sarah Laing's “After the Floods” – Laing's loose style, heavily inked and thickly colored, pulls a reader into a story about the hope that comes in the face of chaos. Pushed against it, the spirit survives and, in bleak times, we still find a way. There is a softness around the edges of this story that are result of its focus on character and possibility.

Katie O’Neill's contribution, “Below the Waves” is far more elegiac in tone. Her manga-inspired static panels are weighted by her dark color palette. There is incredible silence in her pages, mournful in their beauty. Here, what has been lost due to our inaction is the focus, and is all the more palpable due to its inherent universal humanity.

The Lotus Eaters” is editor Damon Keen's own contribution to the anthology. Told in ten pages, nine of which consist of a three horizontal panel layout and one being a compelling splash page, this mostly wordless comic acts as a time line starting now and projecting far into the future. It, too, speaks of the devastation rising oceans will cause, but it also looks towards a strange kind of hope. In Keen's vision of the future, the world heals itself once it removes the toxic effect of humanity from its surface. Bleak and beautiful at the same time, “The Lotus Eaters” is as immense in its scope as it is quiet in its message.

Finally, Ross Murray's four page story “High Water” is just an absolute thing of beauty. It, too, speaks of a future teeming with ocean life at the expense of humanity. Hushed, breathtaking in its draftsmanship, this piece may be the most striking in the collection. Its communicative power is sweeping and universal. Murray's work here should be shown to every climate change denier as a counterpoint to their madness.

It's good to see an anthology like Faction doing these “special event” type publications. It's also great to see it getting political. It's even better that this anthology allows Kiwi comics creators to reach a wider audience and continue to push the medium forward, accent its expansiveness, and focus its emotional gravity.

Oh yea, there's an introduction by Lucy Lawless too!

You can pick up a copy of High Water at the Faction Website 

April 13, 2015


Over on Comics Bulletin, Jason Sacks and I write about Dakota McFadzean's new comic published by Birdcage Bottom Books, LAST MOUNTAIN 2.

It's one of those reviews that kind of gets away from me. I sort of use the comic as a spring board to talk about other things, specifically the concept of "the other" and issues of mental health.

I guess you could call it more of a rant than a review, but it is what it is and I stand behind what I said.

For example, in it I write:

While our culture has come a long way, it continues to wrestle with mental health issues. It still scares us, unnerves us on a very fundamental level, and what we fear we tend to want far from us. We need safety, desire predictability, need everyone playing by the same set of rules.

How many of us gladly sit next to the woman muttering to herself on the bus? How often do we run into traffic to help the naked man screaming in the middle of the street? 

See what I mean... 

April 7, 2015

My Crisis: Writing on CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #1

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

As some sort of "self-flagellation psychological experiment", I agreed to take part in Comics Bulletin's celebration of the 30th anniversary of DC Comics' FIRST MAJOR CROSSOVER EVENT, Crisis on Infinite Earths.

After reading this first issue, I kinda want to echo the words of that weepy dude who keeps popping up to watch worlds ending while wearing a fetching green cloak and way too much eyeliner. He says, “How much longer must I suffer for my sins… before I may be spared the witnessing of these horrors?”. Because this beast of a book sure is one scrum of a story, a pile-on to mirror (or mask) some sort of Homeric intent.
So… how much longer must I suffer?
Oh, that’s right. There’s twelve issues. One whole year of Crisis.
Pffffftttttt….. This is not going to end well for me.

April 2, 2015

The Universe Is About To Be Born Again: A Short Review Of A GRAPHIC COSMOGONY from Nobrow Press

Back in 2010, London based publishing house Nobrow Press printed a 176 page, four color hardback anthology called A Graphic Cosmogony in which “twenty four artists take on seven pages each to tell their tales of the creation of everything...” and, thankfully, it's just recently come back into print.

It's sublime, meditative, resplendent, and just that good. While it certainly highlights the individual contributors within its pages, it also stands as a testament to the innate power that can arise out of a carefully curated anthology

As with most Nobrow releases, A Graphic Cosmogony is a thing of beauty, elegantly crafted. The anthology hovers in that liminal space between an art book and a comic book, as each creator brings to their seven pages a unique understanding and depiction of the myth of creation. Ranging from the traditional to the surreal, profound to the comical, each presentation could exist as a mini-comic on its own. Put together, though, they gain a further layer of meaning through their juxtaposition, commenting, in a way, on the work that proceeds and follows. While some artists are more successful than others, taken as a whole each piece becomes a necessary part of the larger puzzle. Out of the cacophony and chaos implicit in twenty four voices singing their own interpretation of a similar theme, editor Alex Spiro and assistant editor Ben Newman craft a work that fills the room with a pitch perfect orgiastic canticle, a nuanced symphony to exult the senses.

In his introduction to the anthology, Paul Gravett writes, “what better means than comics, the distillation of illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, meditational paintings and decorated scrolls and all of humanities’ narrative arts, to tell that oldest story of them all, the story of creation? When artists deal with ideas surrounding creation myths, one can't help but see them commenting on their understanding of their own process as well, the fundamentals of creativity, the machinations of art, the work inherent in forming inspiration into product. As each artist tells their own myth of creation, they also give the reader insight into their own ideas about creating.

The list of contributors is impressive: Stuart Kolakovic, Mikkel Sommers, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Luke Best, Rob Hunter, Jon McNaught, Ben Newman, Andrew Rae, Luke Pearson, Jack Teagle, Jon Boam, Jakob Hindrichs, Clayton Junior, Daniel Locke, Isabel Greenberg, Mike Bertino, Nick White, Rui Tenreiro, Sean Hudson, Luc Melanson, Katia Fouquet, Yeji Yun, Matthew Lyons, and Liesbeth De Stercke. Each artist demonstrates their nuance of storytelling while also highlighting their particular style. The anthology speaks to the myriad possibilities comics have in terms of narrative, representation, tone, and craft.

A Graphic Cosmogony is a book, first and foremost. The tactile experience of turning each thick page becomes integral to the experience of consumption. The very texture and weight of the paper and the push back of its tight binding make reading A Graphic Cosmogony so much more immersive then tapping on a tablet or scrolling with a mouse. Even its surprising lightness, given that it is a 176 page hardback book, makes reading the anthology a physical event. It's what Nobrow, as a publisher, does best.

Paul Gravett ends his introduction to A Graphic Cosmogony by writing, “Pull up a rock and gather round the flickering fire - the universe is about to be born again…” This is a thing to enjoy. This is an anthology you should experience for yourself.

You can purchase A Graphic Cosmogony from Nobrow Press HERE.