Neverland by Dave Kiersh

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Neverland
by Dave Kiersh
Bodega

The artwork of Dave Kiersh is so distinctive, it would be an embarrassment for anyone else to try and mimic his style.

Just don’t judge a book by its cover. What you’ll find inside is more blackened, cross-hatched, smudged and labyrinthine than its cover would portend. Neverland is a complicated maze of shapes and ideas. A sort of poetry in comics that is set to run in this book on the “I’ll never grow up” theme made memorable by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

Neverland is the first-person narrative of a guy who never got past second base or living in his parents’ basement. He’s not interested in the trappings of adulthood like getting a respectable job, owning a home, or settling down. He’d rather fly and dream and take his time falling in love. A sweet sentiment, but kind of a stunted and pitiful existence from the perspective of curmudgeony old settled people everywhere.

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PS Comics #4 by Minty Lewis

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PS Comics #4
By Minty Lewis
Self-Published

Not all that much tends to happen in an issue of PS Comics. For a book that primarily alternates between the exploits of anthropomorphic animals and talking produce, Minty Lewis’s output is largely defined by a quiet understated quality, which gives the reader the distinct impression that—even as her characters (this time out, an assorted cast of domesticated pets) give into their animalistic instincts and do something like, say groom themselves with a sandpapery tongue—the artist is largely drawing upon her own existence as storytelling fodder. When issue four finds two roommates—a cat and a dog, name Ruffles and Otis—traveling to a crafts fair to peddle their own hand-knitting kitchenware, potholders and cheese cozies, respectively, it’s tough not to read the experience as a thinly-veiled allegory for the author’s own experiences at some comic convention or zine expo. True to much of Lewis’s work, nothing especially extraordinary occurs as her story unfolds. There are a few goofy occurrences, sure, like a shower curtain rod busting during an attempt at pull-ups, but the book’s key moments are far subtler—brief bickering in the car on the way to the show, passive-aggressive interactions with convention attendees, and a quiet interaction with a cow, fenced in next to a grocery store, which closes out the book. Read the rest of this entry »

The Grand Re-Opening by Sam Fellman and Kevin Cannon

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The Grand Re-Opening
By Sam Fellman and Kevin Cannon
Self-Published

At a thin eight pages, The Grand Re-Opening is more a meditation than anything else. With a script penned by Sam Fellman, a naval lieutenant serving in Iraq, the book wastes little time setting up a scene in the midst of that war-torn nation, and is over nearly as quickly as it began.

The author devotes no time waxing political on the perpetually hot-button topic of US occupation of Iraq, and if he intended to slip in some manner of judgment on the matter, he’s done an admirable job masking it. The book instead is a brief snapshot—an anecdote unfolding in a few hours out in the field, and even as some of the events that occur over the course of the story might easily be interpreted as vindication for one side or the other, fanning an already heated debated seems far from his mind.

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Interview: Gabrielle Bell Pt. 1

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In the decade or so since she first began distributing her work through the standard channels of black and white photocopied minis, Gabrielle Bell has fairly quickly become one of the more beloved autobiographical cartoonists in alternative comics, thanks in large part to her long-running, recently revived title, Lucky, which captures the life of a 20-something artist with frankness and unexpected humor.

In 2003, Bell moved from the Bay Area to Brooklyn. She’s appeared in a number of popular of anthologies like Fantagraphics’ Mome, and in 2006, Drawn & Quarterly began publishing Lucky, beginning with a hardbound collection of the title’s first volume. Bell has also begun to dip her feet into filmmaking waters, working with with acclaimed filmmaker Michel Gondry. The first fruits of their labor, Interior Designs is an adaptation of a piece that Bell created for the Kramer’s Ergot anthology.

We sat down with Bell upon the release of the latest issue of Lucky to talk about craft, autobiography, and what winds up on the cutting room floor.

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The Tinderbox by Damien Jay

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The Tinderbox
By Damien Jay [Adapted from a story by Hans Christian Andersen]

Self-Published

In modern America, the word “fairytale” has taken on an almost derisive meaning, immediately evoking images chalk full of genre cliché and the manner of unrealistic life expectations that come coupled with habitually happy endings. Those whose familiarity with the style extends beyond 20th century Hollywood adaptations, however, know that these stories have roots that run much deeper, to tales with far darker overtones, more graphic imagery, and messages steeped in moral ambiguity than the Disney remakes so central to our childhood memories have ever led on.

The pure, unhomogenized works of The Brothers Grimm are oft pointed to as an example of this phenomenon. Those stories that have found their way into the latter half of the 20th century and beyond, relatively intact, such as Hansel and Gretel, broach topics that now seem about as far from children’s lit as imaginable when juxtaposed by their works best known through their Disney iterations. As Damien Jay happily demonstrates in his mini-comic adaptation of The Tinderbox, many of the same things can be said about the works of Hans Christian Andersen.

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Interview: Jules Feiffer Pt. 2 [of 2]

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Over the course of a professional career that has spanned some seven decades, Jules Feiffer has built a staggering body of work in a diverse array of mediums, including the theater, motion pictures, novels, and children’s books. But it’s the artist’s groundbreaking work in the world of political cartooning that really put him on the map. Feiffer’s work for The Village Voice began in the 50s and ran for 42 years, earning him a Pulitzer in 1986.

Fantagraphics celebrated the artist’s work for The Voice with the recent release of Explainers, which compiles the first 10 years of his weekly strip.

In honor of the new book, we sat down with Feiffer to discuss the state of contemporary editorial cartooning, the difficulties of penning a daily strip, and legacy of Will Eisner.

[Part One]
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My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley

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My Brain is Hanging Upside Down
By David Heatley
Pantheon

In a book defined by brutal honestly, My Brain is Hanging Upside Down has one moment that stands out as perhaps even more telling than the rest. On the final page of the first section, David Heatley picks up a copy of The Comics Journal that features an excerpt from the strip that preceded it.

Reading a review of the piece to himself, the artist is genuinely shocked at the suggestion that the strip finds him, “experimenting with his bi-sexuality.” After revisiting the strip, Heatley comes to grip with the assessment, with a thought bubble that reads, “huh…I guess it does read like I’m bisexual. I always think of myself as ‘straight.’”

In the world of autobiographical comics, we often assume that the most affective works are also the most honest, that surely there’s a power that derives from the ability to approach life in the most transparent means possible. However, we also take for granted the fact that, even in the most candid of works, there remains a certain distance.

There are, after all, just some aspects of our lives that we’d prefer not to share with the rest of the world. It’s a filter that Heatley seemingly doesn’t possess, and where other artists largely prefer save those particularly loaded moments of their lives that they care to divulge to mine as much emotional currency as possible—be it comedy or tragedy—Heatley is content to horde them, stacking emotionally charged memories into neat little piles.

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Snake Pit 2007 by Ben Snakepit

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Snake Pit 2007
By Ben Snakepit
Microcosm

Of all the many hats one must wear in order to execute an effective diary comic, perhaps none is more important than that of editor. Let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves here—most of us lead fairly dull, repetitive existences. The same thing applies to the vast majority of those who write autobiographical strips—if not more so. After all, most professional cartoonists spend a large percentage of their time slaving away under the lamps of their drawing boards or huddled around sketchpads, honing their craft. With rare exceptions—like, say, Joe Sacco—comic book artists lead a very un-Hemingway-like existences.

Boiled down to their true essence, how many of our days would read something along the lines of: “This morning I ran a few errands. Then I went to work. I came home and got stoned”? Ben Snakepit certainly has more than his share. The above, for the record, was transcribed verbatim from the Jan 29th entry of the artist’s latest book. A full collection of last year’s strips, there are plenty more strips along those lines, which, one imagines, were Snakepit to pull out during a book reading at the local Barnes & Noble, would be something akin to performing a dramatic reading of a grocery list.

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While You Were Out: Dispatches from Beyond SDCC 2008

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Chalk it up to the sophomore jinx, but the Second Annual Astoria Comic Con isn’t going quite so well as I had hoped. Sure there will be naysayers who insist that it has something to do with the fact that once again I stubbornly insisted on holding it the same weekend as the San Diego Comic Con. And then there’s the fact that I didn’t advertise or really mention it to anybody. And, of course, nitpickers will likely point out that I held the thing in my tiny backyard in Astoria, Queens.

Honestly, though, I think the whole thing is just a matter of building proper buzz, and that sort of thing takes at least three years of unsuccessful backyard conventions to build. Maybe next year J. Scott Campbell will return my phone calls…

We’ve still got another day-and-a-half to turn this whole thing around. And believe me, once word gets out about those discount-priced hugs, attendees will be fleeing the San Diego convention center like rats from a sinking Watchmen sneak previewing ship. At least it didn’t rain this year–yet…

In the meantime, we put out the word to some of our cartoonist pals and asked them why the hell they weren’t at SDCC either, this weekend. Check out responses from Jeff Smith, Evan Dorkin, Renee French, Tony Millionaire, Tom Hart, and many, many more, after the jump.

Bonus: almost certainly the most adorable picture in the history of The Hatch.
–BH

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Wormdye by Eamon Espey

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Wormdye
By Eamon Espey
Secret Acres

It starts innocently enough—two grotesque twin boys shoving the pet cat into microwave at 30 seconds on Defrost. Take it as a warning sign from the author, right out of the gate—if these images disturb you, then now would be the ideal time to back out unscathed. Like a visual tour into the concentric circles of hell, the further one descends into Wormdye’s rabbit hole, the more simultaneously disturbing and engrossing the book’s words and images become, forgoing the former at times to cobble together an orgy of terrifying imagery, like small scale black and white tributes to Hieronymus Bosch, sketched out in the childlike pen of a latter day Gary Panter.

Like the Heaven and Hell painter, Eamon Espey seems to gleam some manner of visceral thrill from its depiction of such horror, however, unlike Bosch’s work, Wormdye largely eschews the Judeo-Christian code as a moral compass, at least on the surface largely ignoring that tradition altogether, save for an trip into a Vatican inhabited by a warlike, gluttonous pope who might easily go head-to-head with Boniface, himself gleefully satirized by Boccaccio and banished to hell by Dante.

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