Guest Strip: Liz Baillie, Josh Eiserike

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SPX isn’t so far away. In fact, it’s coming up this weekend. However, it’s an out-of-the-way affair for most of its participants – so I asked the artists, “How are you getting to SPX?” You can expect to read their responses here daily on the Cross Hatch until the big day arrives.

Today’s participants: Liz Baillie! Josh Eiserike!

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Comic Shop Focus: Quimby’s Chicago, IL

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“I feel like we do have a good comic community here,” answers the bearded, wire-rimmed cashier in the airbrushed tiger shirt. “There are a lot of artists. It’s kind of weird how it all comes together in Chicago.” Logan Bay is in good company, at the moment, seated behind Quimby’s front desk, flanked from above by a pair of signs hand-painted by local cartooning genius, Chris Ware.

The one directly above his head is the now-familiar image the store has since adopted as a logo, a Siamese-split Quimby Mouse torn between a blank-faced red book and that general sense of ennui that permeates so much of Ware’s work. A fitting representation, perhaps of the dual Quimbies now forever joined at the hip in this store front on Chicago’s North Avenue.

First there was the Boston Quimby, a magazine launched in 1985, by one Steven Svymbersky, related in no perceivable manner beyond, perhaps, the cosmically synchronous, to the schizophrenic mouse that would be created half a country and decade away by University of Texas at Austin student, Ware. Through the unique brand of serendipity that only seems to occur in magical lands like Chicago, however, both would converge midway at the beginning of the next decade.

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Guest Strip: Mei K

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SPX isn’t so far away. In fact, it’s coming up this weekend. However, it’s an out-of-the-way affair for most of its participants – so I asked the artists, “How are you getting to SPX?” You can expect to read their responses here daily on the Cross Hatch until the big day arrives.

Today’s participant: Mei K!

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20th Anniversary of FallCon

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This weekend marks the 20th Anniversary of the Twin Cities’ premiere comic book convention FallCon! What began in 1989 as a small hotel convention has fully blossomed into a stalwart chunk of the Midwest’s comic culture. I’ve known people to come in from as far as Iowa just to visit. Iowa, I say!

Featuring panels, local indie and mainstream creators, dealers and reliably the Justice League, the event has yet to outgrow its highly unique sense of hospitality. All creator tables are free, and the event is even catered. Soda, tacos, sloppy joes, chips, cake and other delicious foods are available to creators over the two-day event, plus on Saturday night a special dinner is also offered, giving guests an opportunity to unwind and meet. Do other conventions offer their guests steak dinner? I don’t think so. As volunteer Nick Post would say, “We’ll not have any starving artists on our watch!”

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Nurse Nurse #1-2 by Katie Skelly

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Nurse Nurse #1-2
by Katie Skelly
Calico Comics

Current global tensions heightened by the human population crisis, the Ug99 epidemic, and Pixar’s latest creation WALL-E (arguably) set a suitable backdrop for Katie Skelly‘s lovely yet eerie futuristic comic series Nurse Nurse.

The year is 3030 and Earth has already met its maximum capacity. Humans are migrating to the interplanetary limits and living in artificial conditions just to avoid extinction. Unfortunately, some of these pioneers became poised by their new environments – so Earth sent out a circuit of hot nurses to rescue civilization!

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How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less # 2 by Sarah Glidden

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How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less #2: The Golan Heights
By Sarah Glidden
Self-Published

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less follows Sarah Glidden’s trip to Israel on Birthright, with the recently published chapter two taking her into the Golan Heights, or, as the artist proclaims in the book, “disputed territory proper!” As thoughtful and enjoyable as chapter one, the second installment presents the comic Glidden again with a healthy blend of enthusiasm, reverence, and skepticism—a combination that makes the book properly political without being obnoxious and adequately fun without avoiding politics.

While in the small pages of the mini, extremely complex issues are sometimes boiled down to too small a size, Glidden keeps her character questioning and thinking, which in turn keeps us doing the same. And of course, if the story focused entirely on the politics and history, it wouldn’t be nearly as compelling.

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Interview: Kyle Baker and Mo Willems Pt. 2

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This year, at the third annual Brooklyn Book Fair, we had the opportunity to sit down—or, rather, stand up—with two highly regarded representatives on their respective, and sometimes overlapping, fields, for a panel entitled ‘Cartooning Today.’

Kyle Baker is no doubt familiar to most Cross Hatch readers and the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award winning author of Why I Hate Saturn, Plastic Man, Nat Turner, and Special Forces. Mo Willems’s work tends to skew a bit younger, both as the highly lauded author of such children’s books as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and as a writer for TV shows like Sesame Street and Codename: Kids Next Door.

In this second part of our conversation, we discuss the state of animation, the role of the Internet, and why Warner Bros. wasn’t so keen on naming a character “Afghanistan Sam.”

[Part One]

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Interview: Jay Lynch Pt. 3 [of 3]

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[Art by Frank Cammuso]

Before his reinventing himself as a children’s book author through Toon Book properties like Otto’s Orange Day with Frank Cammuso and the Dean Haspiel collaboration, Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever, Jay Lynch was a driving force in the Chicago’s underground comics movement of the early-70s, publishing Bijou Funnies, which brought the comics world pioneering works by the likes of Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, and, of course, Lynch himself.

In the interim years, Lynch has worked on a wide range of projects, both comics and not, including the Spiegelman-created Wacky Packages series for Topps, and its successor, The Garbage Pail Kids. The artist also contributed to Mad, shortly after the return of counter-culture cartooning legend, Harvey Kurtzman.

In this final part of out interview with Lynch, we discuss working on Mad, whether today’s children’s books are a bit too safe these days, and the battle to stay afloat financially.

[Part One] [Part Two]
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Interview: Kyle Baker and Mo Willems Pt. 1

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Last weekend I moderated a panel in the sweltering heat of the third annual Brooklyn Book Festival. The guests were both well-regarded representatives in their chosen fields, if somewhat polarization in terms of output, but with enough overlap that they both effectively represented the fairly abstract panel title, “Cartooning Today.”

Kyle Baker is best known around these parts for graphic novels like Why I Hate Saturn, Special Forces, and Nat Turner. He also penned an award-winning, Jack Cole-inspired run on DC Comics’ Plastic Man.

Mo Willems, meanwhile, spent years writing for children’s television, penning scripts for shows like Sesame Street and Codename: Kids Next Door. More recently, the artist has arguably found his true calling drawing children’s books like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale.

Below is a transcript of the first part of our conversation, wherein we discuss both creators’ entry into the business, why animation is tough, and why writing for Muppets is easy.
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The Portable Frank by Jim Woodring

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The Portable Frank
By Jim Woodring
Fantagraphics

Seeing Things, the title of Jim Woodring’s 2005 collection of charcoal drawings was intended as more than a simple descriptor of the artist’s surrealist mode of expression. For most of his life, Woodring has suffered from hallucinations, a fact that he’s discussed openly and often in interviews, over the years. For better or worse, the condition has, of course, played a rather prominent role in the artist’s work.

One of the most beneficial side effects is the remarkable sense of consistency with which Woodring has imbued his art. For all of its predominantly fantastic qualities, the world inhabited by his most beloved character, Frank, possesses a sense of internal reality rarely achieved by even the most stringently autobiographical works that the medium has to offer. It’s a sense of other-worldliness hinted at—but rarely, if ever, fully-realized by the psychedelic musings of underground comics’ early pioneers.

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