Comic Shop Focus: OK Comics, Leeds, UK

Categories:  Features, Interviews

I’ve finally achieved one of my New Years resolutions: not being hung over on a Monday. While this meant I crammed a weekend’s worth of binge drinking into Friday night, it paid off, as I’m now in ship-shape and Bristol fashion, looking forward to a field trip to OK Comics in Leeds.

Due to a taste in attractive, but impractical kitchen fittings, and cats that insist on being fed, I’m a bit skint at the moment. This means I can afford neither a Leeds A-to-Z or the printer ink needed to print off from Google Maps. The thought of writing the directions down off of the Internet only occurs to me while waiting for my train. Why are the pretty ones always so dim? I’m now hoping for two things: a. that Leeds has tourist information with free maps and b. that my chosen Dictaphone has a good range on it as I forgot to pack my deodorant in my gym bag this morning.

My visit isn’t solely for The Hatch (my expenses account remains barren [god only knows where Oliver squandered his massive comics blogging paycheck-Ed.]), so I’m taking a batch of my own efforts over. I’m encouraged, having spoken to Jared, OK’s manager, on the phone that he said he takes 30-percent. This is the best I’ve heard of, with most other shops taking as much as 50-percent. The difference might not seem much, but any money earned can go back into making more comics, which is what we’re all here for.

On the train over I read an ‘hourly’ comic by Mark Ellerby, which is perfectly enjoyable for what it is. I think I’m softening my approach to autobiographical stuff as I near my 30th (three weeks, birthday card fans). Same goes for folk music. I’m just getting soft. Shit, maybe it’s the hangovers! No hangovers, no bite, no bile, no intolerance for anyone’s comics but mine. It’s like Samson and his magic hair!

Arriving at Leeds, I procure a free map, dodge the Scientologists on route, and in no time I’m stammering my way through my first interview. You think you don’t like the sound of your own voice. You know n,n,n,n,nothing.

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The Rabbi’s Cat 2 By Joann Sfar

Categories:  Reviews

The Rabbi’s Cat 2
By Joann Sfar
Pantheon

Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat series is comprised of the kinds of books beloved by many comics-inclined adults: packaged like children’s books, they read as if they were written for grown-ups. Beyond making great reading material for the subway (so that you can watch other people secretly watching you), these books mingle simplicity with profundity, spicing up easy-to-follow plot with sophisticated twists, and boast art that is both fun and innovative.

Sfar posited the stories of the rabbi’s cat firmly in this category with the first book, which came out in 2005. The second in the series, the simply titled The Rabbi’s Cat 2, lives up to the high standards set by its predecessor with more clear, clever writing and lively art.

Like the original book, this sequel is narrated by the talking cat of an Algerian rabbi and split into two parts. The first tells the tale of the rabbi’s cousin, Malka of the Lions, and the second that of a Russian Jewish painter who accidentally ends up in the rabbi’s village. Sfar imparts both tales with subtle wit, mixing up ordinary circumstances with imaginative premises. His unwieldy tales of desert wanderings, lost cities, and overzealous religious leaders, juxtaposed with the humanity and imperfection of his main characters, allow him to use stories that are anything but ordinary to make astute observations about issues that are closer to home for the reader, such as the challenges of maintaining religious faith and the difficulties of marriage.

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The Cross Hatch Dispatch 4/29/08

Categories:  The Cross Hatch Dispatch

[Above, How to Understand Israel in two panels. Below, getting to know your Dispatch.]

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Interview: Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian Pt. 4 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews

By the end of my conversation with Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian, the two cartoonists are on the sort of roll that requires little guidance from their interviewer, a fact that seemingly reflects both their decades of brilliant work in the field and the fact that they have worked so closely together, for so long. Speaking with them, one can easily imagine that they partake in this manner of conversation with one another on a regular basis, engaging in poignant analysis of their own work and the work of their much celebrated peers like David B. and Marjane Satrapi.

Whether or not that is indeed the case, it’s a pleasure sitting back and listening [(and hopefully read, as well) as they use the form as something of a launching pad for art in general, touching on the works of artists ranging from Matisse to Philip K. Dick.

[Part One]
[Part Two]
[Part Three]
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Cross Hatch Dispatch 4/27/2008

Categories:  The Cross Hatch Dispatch

[Above, a member of the Loony clan from Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button. Below, a dispatch with a hard shell and a soft creamy center.]

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Interview: David Lloyd Pt 1 [of 2]

Categories:  Interviews

When I approach the Dark Horse booth near the entrance of the New York Comic Con showroom floor, David Lloyd appears deeply engaged with someone standing on the other side of the signing counter. His eyes flit from the fellow occasionally, only to put the finishing touches on a large sketch that dominates the inside cover of the book—his latest, a crime drama called Kickback, which sits next to him in a small pile on the counter.

Lloyd shakes the fan’s hand, warmly wishes him luck, and then moves on to the next person, who asks sheepishly for a sketch of V on the inside cover of V for Vendetta, the work that helped the artist, who paid his dues on horror books and movie adaptations, become a legendary name amongst comics readers.

Lloyd complies with a an exuberance that betrays none of the general air of exhaustion that hangs in the air the morning of the third and final day of the Con. He’s only too happy to answer questions about his new book or the Wachowski adaptation of his most famous work. It’s a stark contrast to the inferred antisocial nature of his occupation—one only compounded by the outward appearance of many of his peers, including (perhaps somewhat undeservedly) his Vendetta cohort, Alan Moore.

It’s because of this that it’s easy to forgive his holding up our interview start time for a good half hour, due to a determination to personalize the books of all who lined up to meet him. When we finally sit down at an elevated table toward the rear of the booth he reveals with a sigh a bit of the exhaustion he seems to have been holding back for the last hour and a half.

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Interview: Kevin Cannon pt. 1 (of 2)

Categories:  Interviews

[Shanks in a full-on tussle with some pretty mean dudes. Nearby, a lady cries.]

It began as a half-crazy idea for a contest.

A man, Steven Stwalley, accepts the 24-hour comics day challenge three years in a row, but he begins to feel restless. By 2006, he starts to form ideas. Concepts so bold and scary, he can’t quite get himself to actualize them. Instead, he passes them off to a friend. He dares Kevin Cannon to create a 288-page graphic novel over 12 months by finishing one page an hour for twenty-four hours each month. And, more or less, that’s just what happened.

By March of 2008, the book was complete and in print. Cannon’s graphic novel Far Arden even beat Stwalley’s original expectations, finishing at 350-pages long.

Far Arden’s progress has been posted quite regularly on Cannon’s website kevincannon.org. You can even READ IT NOW, and you should, because it has developed into one of the most riveting comics I have ever read.

It’s about a world-weary sea captain in the Arctic who is more in love with beautiful ships than he is with the women who pursue him. But it isn’t just ladies who follow after Artemus (“Army”) Shanks. You see, there is a map to a secret place called Far Arden that only Shanks has seen, and by whatever means necessary there are people who want to get that information from him. Shanks is pursued from danger into danger by a host of unlikely characters: the Royal Canadian Arctic Navy, a mad scientist, an ex-lover, some college students and one very ridiculous orphan.

This book is funny, beautifully drawn, smart, epic, mysterious and wonderfully imaginative. Unfortunately, Cannon is one of those guys who enjoys toiling in obscurity. Well I think that’s dumb. This book is a fantastic achievement and if the fate of Far Arden’s limited 100-copy print run is to never leave Cannon’s Big Time Attic studio in Minneapolis, then there’s some Mini-Comics Editor nearby who isn’t doing her job. As such, I asked the artist to sit down with me for an interview.

[PART TWO]

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A Man of Certain Talents by Douglas Noble

Categories:  Reviews

A Man of Certain Talents
By Douglas Noble
Strip for Me


There’s a real pleasure in finding something you enjoy, only to discover that it’s got a sizable back catalogue attached. I had such an experience recently with Rufus Wainwright, hearing his latest album on the jukebox, loving it, and then finding all is previous albums on sale in town. And I’ve just done the same with Douglas Noble. Hats off to you Mr. Noble; when people accusingly challenge me that all comics are for intellectual retards and bed wetters, all failed relationships and whimsy, I can add this to my arsenal of come backs; “yeah but have you seen this?”

The art first; in less competent, considered hands, this style of art, with its massive nods to film noir would be riddled with cliché, but Noble keeps it sparse, only showing us what we need to see. I thought he’d done a good image of a coastal landscape, only to realise on a second reading it was a close up of a key. My only gripe with the book is the text. “Ruined” might be too strong a word, but the typed text doesn’t sit right with me, it jars against the art. The narrative reads like a journal of a man piecing together remnants of a broken memory and handwritten text would have suited this better. But that’s it, just the one fault in a book I’ve been repeatedly returning to.

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NYCC ’08: Seeking Out the Indies

Categories:  News

Visiting New York Comic Con can be a fairly overwhelming experience, especially if it’s your first time. The place is huge, and if you don’t watch your step, chances are you’ll walk straight into a scantily clad faerie chick posing for a picture with a Blackhole Stormtrooper. You never what you’ll see next–case in point: On my way in, I ran into HETFET, Humans for the Ethical Treatment of Fairies, Elves, and Trolls, “picketing” (until they went in, too) outside the Javits. “Hi ho, hi ho! Troll persecution has got to go!” they yelled.

“What am I getting myself into?” I quietly mused.

Once safely inside, after someone in a giant Uglydoll suit (accidentally) touched my ass, I made my way over to the Small Press and Artist Alley areas. Taken aback by all of the energy, noise, commercialism, and excitement of the place, I figured those smaller sections off in the back right corner of the center were where I belonged.

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The Cross Hatch Dispatch 4/22/08

Categories:  The Cross Hatch Dispatch

[Above, happy Earth Day, planeteers. Below, happy Dispatch, cross hatchers.]

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