The Lagoon by Lillie Carre

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The Lagoon
By Lille Carre
Fantagraphics

lilliecarrelagooncoverA black triangle to one side of the nose is Lilli Carré’s graphic trademark. It drew my attention when I read The Lagoon, and after a while it becomes something you see but don’t notice. It’s like recognizing a person, ‘oh that’s Lillie Carré.’ When I first encountered her trademark nose, I kept looking at Grandpa where he says, “I couldn’t make up a song that pretty, you know that!” The tip of Grandpa’s nose meets his laugh line and flattens the effect of the rendering to make the black triangle look like a hole. An optical effect where the positive and negative shapes swap places.

Carré draws figures with the push and pull of black and white. Transitions between the two poles often employ the artist’s brush in the manner of woodcut illustrations. In woodcut, the tool gouges out the black. Her brush feathers in the black. The gouge and the brush. Hard metal. Soft fiber. They’re strong opposites and they can create a very similar graphic style. Black and white. There’s no crosshatching. The white shapes are as necessary to define the figure and ground as the lines, patterns, and black ink. With this balance, Carré creates a pleasurable line of sight through the book. Her story dances on the surface and has a depth that one must put on a diver’s size thinking cap to plummet.

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Comic Shop Focus: Needles and Pens, San Francisco, CA

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“I’m the needles half,” answers Breezy Culbertson, the shop’s pigtailed co-owner, seated behind the counter nestled in the back right-hand corner of her store. “The sewing needles half.” The pens half, she explains, is Andrew Scott, a former Maximum RocknRoll coordinator and editor of the long-running zine, sobstory.   Together the duo opened the quasi-eponymous Needles and Pens a few blocks from this spot, a half-dozen years ago.

“The old store was tiny. It was the size of a one-car garage,” explains Culbertson. “San Francisco is so expensive, it was the only place we could afford.” Needles and Pens opened up in 2002 on 14th and Guerrero, in storefront that had formerly been home to San Francisco’s Black and Blue tattoo parlor, a small but cozy location that shared the block with a handful of kindred commercial spirits. “It was off the beaten path, too, but it was fun, because there was a record shop and a print shop and a gallery and a bike shop,” says Culbertson. “We used to have events together and it was like a mini-block party. It was fun. But then they moved on.”

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Interview: Bob Fingerman Pt. 1 [of 3]

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In 2003, Fantagraphics released Beg the Question. The 240 page hardcover book collected the entire run of Bob Fingerman’s mid-90s series, Minimum Wage—which, to this day, remains the author’s best known work. The mini-series follows the story of cartoonist and part-time pornography enabler, Rob, and his girlfriend Sylvia. While the book’s thinly-veiled autobiographical aspects shed a good deal of light on both the artist’s early career and, perhaps, a healthy dose of neurosis, Minimum Wage is hardly typical Fingerman fare.

From his first graphic novel, the science fiction satire White Like She to the recent short Dark Horse book, Recess Pieces, an elementary school-based zombie splatter fest, Fingerman’s work is largely concerned with the social and comedic implications of juxtaposing the fantastic with the mundane, a formula that has played out in both his first prose novel, Bottomfeeder, centering around a neurotic vampire, and his year-long run on The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the early 90s.

Published in late 2006, Bottomfeeder was Fingerman’s last major release. The artist is gearing up for another big year in 2009, however, with releases from both Fantagraphics and IDW. We caught up with the Fingerman just before the Christmas holiday.

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Vincent Stall’s Favorite Things

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Raindrops on roses
and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles
and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages
tied up with string
These are a few
of my favorite things
- Maria, The Sound of Music

At some point in recent history, the song “Favorite Things” was conscripted by the Christmas season. Though at first this seems surprising – the song has no mention of Christmas at all – in some ways, the association makes sense. For religious folk and heathens alike, Christmas in America has spawned a season of spending, wrapping and receiving. A song about things is a likely holiday anthem for all.

However, “Favorite Things” was originally a love song to the charming things one possesses or recalls to feel good again in hard times. There are ordinary, everyday, tried-and-true utensils and objects floating around everyone’s life and memory. In a cartoonist’s studio, however, only the best are cherry-picked for prominent display, reference or inspiration.

kingmini3I asked Minneapolis’ own mini-comics legend Vincent Stall about his favorite things. King Mini is known for authoring classic, hand-made comics like Robot Investigator, pulling incredible posters for bands like Yo La Tengo and the Melvins, and recently printing and sewing a subversive family of Scumbags. Prepare for photo-heavy wonderment as King Mini’s favorite things are revealed.

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Essex County Vol. 3: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire

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jefflemirethecountrynursecoveerIn The Country Nurse, the final installment of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County trilogy, the artist is obsessed with images—the image of the open farmland of Essex County, the image of a crow flying in front of the moon, the image of a boy growing up and learning the truth about who he is. He uses these composite images to complete a larger picture, started in the first two books in the series, of Essex County, a fictionalized version of his hometown.

In a real sense, then, Essex County is the protagonist of the three books. Whereas so often in series based on locations—consider any TV show set in a particular locale, for starters—the plots of the characters’ lives become the focus of the story, here the reverse is true: The tales of these characters are woven into the larger fabric of the story of Essex County, and the stories are important not so much for what happens in them as for how they represent life in the county. The lives of the people in Essex County become emblematic of the place, rather than subsuming it with their own drama.

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Interview: Kevin Huizenga Pt. 2 [of 2]

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Kevin Huizenga is a difficult artist to pin down, and the cartoonist, it seems, wouldn’t have it any other way. At any one moment, Huizenga is in the middle of a handful of a series for a handful of publishers. The combination of artist’s talent and seemingly endless output have made him one of the most visible indie cartoonists working today.

His creative restlessness, however, has assured that, while he’s got any number of on-going projects serialized at the same time, there’s little conceptual overlap from one to the next, even when—as is often the case—they star Huizenga’s empty vessel protagonist, Glenn Ganges.

In this second and final part of our interview with Huizenga, we discuss the magic of zines, writing about religion, and why you can’t please all the people, all the time.

[Part One]

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The Best Damned Comics of 2008 Chosen By The Artists

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In many respects, 2008 will no doubt go down as one of the most disastrous  years in modern publishing history. Fewer people are reading, and when they are, they’re largely forgoing print in favor of Web-based content. These issues, combined with a year-long global recession, have lead to an unprecedented shake up in the industry.  Still, despite the seemingly endless parade of bad news for publishing, the underground comics renaissance has continued to outdo itself, producing some of the strongest works of sequential art that we’ve seen in the past decade.

2008 will perhaps be known as the year that smaller publishers like Sparkplug and Secret Acres really came into their own, or maybe the moment that Top Shelf truly asserted itself as a publishing house on par with the likes of Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, thanks to scheduled that include many of the year’s best titles. It will be regarded as confirmation that those who have weathered the storm with self-published titles are truly in it for the love of the medium and the creation of art.

Above all, of course, it will be remembered for the books. Whereas last year few titles emerged as true contenders for the book of the year, these past 12 months have seen plenty, like Bottomless Belly Button, What it Is, Swallow Me Whole, Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Skim, Freddie & Me, Kramer’s Ergot–we could go on, of course.

Once again we put the question to some of the industry’s luminaries, asking top creators, journalists, publishers, editors, and scholars to send in their top books of the year. Once again the response was overwhelming. We received more than 50 lists, all of which we’ve included below, from the serious, to the overzealous, to the hilarious (including the artist who opted to fill his ballot out with classic Prince singles). We’ve also tossed in links to reviews of featured books that have run in the Cross Hatch this past year.

Thanks to all who participated, and, as ever, thanks to you, the readers who have been incredibly supportive these past 12 months. This has been an amazing year for the site, and we’re incredibly excited to start 2009 off with a bang.

–BH
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The Daily Rock Hatch: Tom Scharpling

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tomscharpling

In which members of the entertainment community tearfully reveal their geeky comic obsessions, beneath their hardened irony-based exoskeleton.

A great man in our industry once famously proclaimed, “I’m the best there is at what I do, even though what I do isn’t very nice.” In a certain sense, those words can be applied to Tom Scharpling’s career. His public radio show, which boasts the understated title, ‘The Best Show on WFMU,’ is not a mere case of posturing or hyperbole—rather, it’s something of an honest, level-headed assessment of the facts. Even if it isn’t always all that nice.

The Best Show airs every Tuesday at 8PM EST on Jersey City’s WFMU (simulcast on the Web and later converted into handy podcast form for consumption at your own leisure). Over the course of three hours, Scharpling spins records and takes phone calls on an assortment of guests, both real and fake (the latter of which is nearly always performed by ex-Superchunk drummer, Jon Wurster).

I first discovered Scharpling’s show whilst browsing minis at Quimby’s in Chicago. The cashier was playing that week’s podcast over the loudspeaker, Scharpling well into a rant, discussing the merits of the forthcoming Brian Wilson concept record, Pleasure Island. The setting was rather fitting, as turns out. Scharpling, god help him, is big fan of sequential art, regularly reminding his listeners that he could be doing something better with his time, generally involving a large stack of comics.

We put Scharpling through the Daily Rock Hatch paces earlier this week. Check out his responses, after the jump.

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Powr Mastrs Vol 2 by CF

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Powr Mastrs Vol 2
By CF
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cfpowrmastrs2cover“The answers I’m searching for, I find behind the Brown Door,” Buell Kazee says and descends into the cellar of the Plex Knowe Crypt. He inserts the key and opens the door. “Buell,” exclaims a blister-headed monster behind the brown door. One skeletal arm and one green tentacle emerge from the monster’s shrimp-shaped carapace.

“Viskoser Tod. Are you hungry?” Buell asks.

“Yesss . . . Hungry . . ,” hisses Viskoser Tod.

Buell explodes with laughter, “Ha, ha, ha!”

Holding the green tentacle in one hand, Buel laughs.

Answers?

Buell must have been asking a rather simple question, or maybe Viskoser Tod could destroy Mosfet? I wrestle with questions. The shiny blue first volume I hold in my hands. The great questions lead to greater awareness, and I have possession of Powr Mastrs Volume 2.

Reading through the book, I soon notice I have already reached page 100. There’s a bit more to come, but what happened? The events make sense in the same way a dream makes sense. It’s an internal logic. It’s strange, things happen in Vol. 2 but not in the conventional sense of one unfolding narrative idea. I like the open space, the clear line, the avoidance of rendering. There’s no crosshatching or filling in space with black. This creates a fluidity and fast pace to the art. It’s easy to look at and very readable.
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Interview: Kevin Huizenga Pt. 1 [of 2]

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Kevin Huizenga isn’t quite a household name in the world of the indie comics, but these days it seems nearly impossible to walk into a comic shop or convention without spotting the artist’s work, be it in Drawn & Quarterly book form, tucked away in the pages of an anthology, or gracing the cover of some piece of comics-related promotional material.

His style in steeped in the classics, owing heavily to the works of forebears like E.C. Segar and Herge, but Huizenga has molded their aethestics into something altogether different, best personified in his seemingly ever present everyman, Glenn Ganges.

In our first part of our interview with Huizenga, talk about the role of the character as a storytelling vessel and the importance of artistic consistency.
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