Spaniel Rage by Vanessa Davis

Categories:  Reviews

Spaniel Rage
By Vanessa Davis
Distributed by Buenaventura Press

Spaniel RageIn May of this year, I bought a hot pink Vanessa Davis minicomic titled Spaniel Rage from Buenaventura Press. It was printed in 2007 and doesn’t share any material with Davis’s graphic novel Spaniel Rage or her webcomic Spaniel Rage, though it does contain diary strips from roughly the same time period.

A friend turned me on to Spaniel Rage a few years ago. I could tell he had really fallen in love with Davis’s comics and it took me no time at all to tumble in right after him.

Probably there are plenty of girls who are into wallpaper patterns, accurate pencil drawings of shoes, gossip-sharing and autobio comics. I used to feel alone, but Davis’s comics speak directly to my demographic. For us observant, over-sensitive, over-analytical, fun-loving people with flaws and shopping addictions, Spaniel Rage should be all the rage.

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True Story Swear to God by Tom Beland

Categories:  Reviews

True Story Swear to God
By Tom Beland
Image Comics

Tom BelandWelcome, friends to the kinder, gentler Image Comics. Were someone to have suggest, a decade and a half ago, from beneath the piles of books produced by Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and their acolytes, that the harbinger of undead antiheroes and fiery swords would someday also be the home to a series like Tom Beland’s True Story Swear to God, surely we would have rolled out eyes and walked away. In fact, even now, fully aware of the company’s ever-increasing print umbrella, I wondered, upon opening a sizable box addressed to me by the company, if the book hadn’t accidentally slipped at some point during the shipping process.

Flipping the book over it’s clear, however, Image is indeed the new home for reissues of the series. The contrast with traditional expectations regarding the company’s output is the more stunning. In a field so often dominated by buff or busty archetypes in skin tight spandex, Beland’s work is some of the least pretentious committed to panels. Even compared to his fellow underground cartoonists so often drawn to autobiography, the artist’s work stands out as something humble and genuine. Take, for example, Beland’s art. While he has certainly developed his own style, Beland seems conscious that he’s not the most accomplished artist on the scene, opting to make due with what he has, a method that helps keep the focus on his storytelling, rather than the flash of inks and pencils.

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Moomin [Volume 2] by Tove Jansson

Categories:  Reviews

Moomin [Volume 2]
By Tove Jansson
Drawn and Quarterly

Tove JanssonIn his native Scandinavia, Moomin is the subject of several animated series. His hippo-like face can be found gracing t-shirts and coffee mugs and the side of a full-sized McDonnell Douglas passenger plane in Finnair’s fleet. A Finnish themepark and separate museum have been erected in his name. Mention him to any Finn or Swede, and you’ll likely be greeted with the flood of memories generally attributed to characters on the level of a Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse.

Try the same trick in the States, and you’ll almost certainly find yourself on the receiving end of little more than a baffled stare or furrowed brow.

The lack of success on the part of Tove Jansson’s titular troll can’t be chalked up to cultural differences, however. For their part, Moomin and his family possess all of the universe charm of fellow European exports Babar and Tin-tin. Rather, the absence of recognition can be entirely attributed to the fact that, until Drawn & Quarterly stepped up to the plate last year with the first part of this series, Moomin had never seen the light of day in North America, despite the fact that a number of the strips were originally published in English.

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Laika by Nick Abanzis

Categories:  Reviews

Laika
By Nick Abanzis
First Second

Nick AbadzisHeroes, it’s been said, come in many forms. The use of a scrappy dog as a protagonist has long been one of the most prominent illustrations of this point in American storytelling. But four-legged heroes are also nearly universally tragic. Perhaps its the collective memories of our pets that inspires this unfortunate trope—the sad fact is that, compared to humans, dogs don’t really live all that long, and the death of a pet is a nearly universal theme in our comings of age. Therefore, the bildungsroman, perhaps the most popular vessel for a dog story, cannot truly be considered complete until the death of the beloved pet.

Nick Abadzis does not seek to change this fact with Laika—in part because he has history to contend with. The dog’s death is, after all, an essential element in the story of the earth’s first space traveler. Rather, the author’s goal seems to be two-fold. Firstly, he explores whether her death was in vain. Secondly, he seeks to celebrate her life, by retelling what we know, and filling in the gaps with his own fictions.

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Kim Deitch Speaks at MCAD

Categories:  News

deitchKim Deitch addressed a packed crowd of students from all disciplines yesterday at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. After the talk, he culled the comics students, bringing them to the front of the auditorium to discuss in detail his process and his artwork.

Deitch is a really fun public speaker. He has a unique grasp of language that allows him to say something like “gosh wow enthusiasm” without sounding intentionally funny or ironic. His talk mostly addressed the process of writing comics, but also touched on his incredible life and experiences.

Deitch often cites Ivan Brunetti for having first said something like, “If you can’t write interesting comics, you need to become a more interesting person.” With a resume full of weird jobs (Norwegian Merchant Marines, clipping newspaper comics, insane asylum, drug dealing, daycare center, cartoonist), Deitch has more than his fair share of interesting stories to tell.

I sat in the crowd transcribing quotes of interest for our Dear Readers here at the Cross Hatch. I write pretty furiously but I’m no substitute for sound recording. (Note to self: get tape recorder.) Reading on should give you a good idea about what advice Deitch has to offer budding cartoonists, albeit not from perfect quotations. Even with quotes, the delivery would be lost. Deitch was funny and direct about his subject matter in a way you really need to see to experience. Man, you should’ve been there. It was a real treat, but I guess you’ll have to settle for the sloppy seconds.

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Turtle, Keep it Steady! by Joseph Lambert

Categories:  Reviews

Turtle, Keep it Steady!
By Joseph Lambert
One Percent Press

keepsteadyOf the books I received at MoCCA, I have read and re-read Joseph Lambert’s books most frequently. Today I’m going to tell you about Turtle, Keep it Steady! but I also recommend that you read I Will Bite You or Bait and Switch to enjoy more of Lambert’s art and ideas.

When I think back to meeting Lambert at MoCCA, I remember he was pretty quiet and really polite about other One Percent Pressers giving me a bunch of his comics for free. Particularly because now that I’ve read them, I realize he should be paid hundreds if not billions of dollars to create such lovely images.

Turtle, Keep it Steady! is a play on an old adage to the effect of “steady wins the race.” You probably remember Swiftly Hare and Slowly Turtle heading towards the finish line. In this spin on an old favorite, Turtle and Hare are drummers until Hare rocks a little too hard. When Hare burns out, bumming the crowd and stopping the party, Turtle hammers on. The book ends in a flourish of dance and music. It’s marvelous.

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Screw Heaven, When I Die, I’m Going to Mars by Shannon Wheeler

Categories:  Reviews

Screw Heaven, When I Die, I’m Going to Mars
By Shannon Wheeler
Dark Horse

Shannon WheelerI almost feel bad saying (read: writing) it, but my first reaction upon receiving a copy of Screw Heaven, When I Die I’m Going to Mars was something along the lines of, ‘oh goody, a new Shannon Wheeler book that’s not about Too Much Coffee Man.’ It was a confusing bit of momentary relief—after all, I’ve long been among TMCM’s supporters, still eagerly awaiting the follow up to 2005’s How to Be Happy. The thing is, though, we don’t often see the artist come out from under the mug.

Those seeking a non-TMCM book are in for a sore dissapointment, however. Screw Heaven collects Wheeler’s short strips, sneaking a few TMCM appearances into the proceedings. After a few pages, however, something about Wheeler’s work becomes clearer than ever before: the existence of Too Much Coffee Man is largely incidental.

Save for the occasional story of superheroics, the mugged crime fighter has always been less of a character than a funnel for Wheeler’s own psychoses, to a degree that few characters–even in this particularly neurotic field–have managed. Wheeler gets far less lost in his characters than his characters have a tendency to get lost in him.

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Interview: Peter Kuper Pt. 2

Categories:  Interviews

Peter KuperThe lines of autobiography have never been well-defined in the world of graphic novels. Every time an artist pens some slice of life story, we both as readers and critics immediately assume that some large percentage of said slice is taken directly from the author’s own experience. In those instances of confessional autobiography, even when the picture painted is less than flatteringly, as in the case of a Joe Matt or Harvey Pekar, surely, we insist, the author have given in to some manner of flight of fancy.

Peter Kuper has seen fit to add a new level of confusion to our comics unpacking with Stop Forgetting to Remember, presenting the life of one Walter Kurtz, described by the book’s jacket as Kuper’s alter-ego, who, as turns out, died shortly after the publication of the book. Surely Kuper and this Kurtz character are screwing with us on some level. But how? And to what end?

Thankfully, dear reader, The Hatch is on the case.

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Interview: Paul Karasik Pt. 1

Categories:  Interviews

Paul KarasikNeither editor Paul Karasik, nor his publisher, Fantagraphics, could have seen this coming. After all, projects such as this one have a tendency to wallow in the same obscurity as the works of the author on which they’re based. Thanks to a good amount of bloggy and word of mouth buzz, however, I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets managed to surprise just about everyone, selling out a few weeks after publication.

Were he still around, Fletcher Hanks would have no doubt been amongst the most surprised. However, the artist met with the kind of end that puts the deaths of fellow self-destructive, posthumously-appreciated artists to shame, having frozen while sleeping on a park bench. In the book’s comic afterword by Karasik, himself a celebrated cartoonist, the author tracks down Hanks’s son, who knew nothing of his abusive old man’s comic book ambitions.

A quick glance at the pages of I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets reveals almost immediately both why Hanks received no recognition in his time, and why he is being regarded as something of a lost visionary, all of these years later. Fletcher Hanks was, for better and worse, and true original, in a time when his field studiously promoted those who could best fulfill the status quo.

We spoke to Karasik about Hanks, and how an obsession with a long-forgotten artist grew into one of the year’s best-received books on the form.

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Cross Hatch Dispatch 09/14/2007

Categories:  The Cross Hatch Dispatch

hiroshi-dirt.jpg

By day, Derek Yu is an indie video game maker. By night, he is an indie comics maker.
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