Guest Strip: Chuck Forsman

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_clubfttzIn 2008, Chuck Forsman graduated from The Center for Cartooning Studies.  Soon after, he won the prestigious Ignatz award for his outstanding series Snake Oil, which is up to its third issue.

Unable to resist the charm of White River Junction, Forsman still lives in Vermont, and will make you a sandwich if you’re lucky.

You can look for his comics in the new Awesome 2: Awesomer anthology published by Indie Spinner Rack and Top Shelf.

You can also catch him this year at TECAF, MECAF, MoCCA, HeroesCon, and SPX.

Prevously, his mini-comic Snake Oil #1 was reviewed by the Cross Hatch HERE.

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Comics on Fire #1 by Paul Hack

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Comics on Fire #1
by Paul Hack

comicsonfire1Paul Hack is a great name for a cartoonist.  I hope he invented it for himself, but maybe he was just born lucky.

Comics on Fire #1 is full of short gag comics about outerspace, science, life and household objects.  Basically it’s mash-up of different styles and ideas with the common thread of comedy.

The humor is what makes this a cohesive book, despite the diverse subjects and artistic styles.  So whereas some first or experimental mini-comics come off as a jumble of dissimilar ideas leading you to different conclusions about the author’s intent or ability, the point of Comics on Fire #1 is always to make you laugh, and Hack hits the mark every time.

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Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers edited by Craig Yoe

Categories:  Reviews

Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers
Edited by Craig Yoe

craigyoeboodycover“Now Boody could write funnier than Elzie Segar,” writes Craig Yoe in his intro, “create more excitement than Milton Caniff, draw more amazing than Frank Frazetta, ink slicker than Wally Wood, make sexier girls than Dean Yeagle, letter better than Artie Simek, and his comics were loonier than Fletcher Hanks’s.” One can, of course, forgive Yoe for the touch of hyperbole—after all, as the editor of Boody Rogers’s first official anthology, one would certainly hope that the author was among his biggest fans.

Anyone doubting Yoe’s initial bout of enthusiasm—or perhaps chalking his a bit of tall tale yarn spinning up to an attempt to keep with Rogers’s wild west upbringing—will, hopefully be won over a page later, when the other describes his first encounter with the artist’s work, in amongst a pile of Little Lulus and Supermans and Uncle Scrooges, spread out on his childhood bedroom floor. Such youthful memories certainly place Rogers in good company—among easily some of the most influential books of that golden age. By the end of his introduction, there’s little room for doubt. Yoe unquestionably considers the late-artist to be one of the medium’s greats, and, as the book opens, the reader is ready to play along with the premise that Rogers is, perhaps, the era’s unappreciated genius—a producer of work too far ahead of its time to be sufficiently appreciated by the huddled pulp-reading masses. After all, the Arf Forum-editor certainly knows his stuff when it comes to vintage cartooning.

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Little Nothings: The Prisoner Syndrome by Lewis Trondheim

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Little Nothings: The Prisoner Syndrome
By Lewis Trondheim

lewistrondheimlittlenothingsprisonercoverHe’s taken on a lot over the past decade and a half. There have been aliens and vampires and dungeons and dragons. In 2000 he wrote about the adventures of Santa Claus, and in 2001 it was the story of pint-sized king. It was the following year, however, that Lewis Trondheim took on what was, perhaps, the most difficult subject matter of his storied career—his own life. That year’s four volume Travel Notebooks marked a return to autobiography, after years spent tackling nearly every other subject in the known universe. The trend continued with the sublimely titled Nothing Diaries, which have subsequently been collected in the States as the volumes, Little Nothings.

The title, of course, is a happy little piece of self-deprecation, Trondheim’s not-so-subtle declaration of the banality of his day-to-day existence—and perhaps, by proximity, a swipe at the inevitable self-indulgence of such a project. The artist largely lives up to his title, writing about printer cartridges and saliva production and a weird spherical object ejected from his nasal cavity while blowing his nose. In that sense, the artist has captured the zen-like mundanity of the genre.

But Trondheim’s position as one of the continent’s most celebrated cartoonists affords him a certainly level of geographical freedom not often offered to other diary strip cartoonist—it’s an opportunity that that artist takes advantage of fairly often over the course of the book, traveling to festivals, ceremonies, and conferences. Early on in the proceedings, on a trip to Nantes, in his native France, Trondheim discovers the term that gives this volume its subtitle: ‘the prisoner syndrome.’

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Interview: Eric Powell Pt. 1 [of 2]

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A skilled craftsman by any measure, Eric Powell has put in his time all over the industry, from more independent works to superhero franchises like Batman and Superman. The Lebanon, Tennessee-based artist is, however, most content to do things on his own terms, reveling in the rare manner of freedom afforded to him by his own Dark Horse series, The Goon, the ever-evolving tale of a classically-styled pipe wrench-wielding ruffian doing battle with whatever manner of strange and fantastic villianry the artist’s mind can concoct.

After nearly a decade, the series has become Powell’s major creative outlet, and the hard work has paid off in spades. The book has become one of Dark Horse’s most popular creator-owned works and has garnered Powell numerous awards, including a handful of Eisners. It’s also recently been optioned by David Fincher in hopes of being transformed into an animated feature.

We sat down with Powell at this year’s New York Comic Con to talk about his work in the industry and why all roads lead back to The Goon.
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Interview: Rob Liefeld

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Rob Liefeld is seated facing the wall. Chalk it up to poor placement on Image’s part. The company’s booth at the New York Comic Con feels strangely out of the way of the flow of traffic—something one has to seek out after staring at the floor map for some time, rather than happening upon by happy accident. Marvel and DC, the industry’s long-standing giants, have staked out their territory in the middle of the showroom floor, both catering to inevitably massive amounts of foot traffic. Dark Horse, for its part, has once again secured a prime piece of real estate adjacent to the entrance, assuring that attendees, whether by choice or necessity, will wind up perusing its goods.

But for Image, the showing is modest, at best. And for Liefeld, one of the company’s seven founders—some might claim the key driving force in the creation of the publisher—there’s little fanfare. In a show so driven by a thirst for constant spectacle, the artist’s appearance is a relatively quiet one. A handwritten placard marks his presence at the booth. He’ll sit behind it for the better part of the three days.

In his downtime, he chats with his neighbors and fiddles with his iPhone and draws large sketches in Sharpie of Batman or Bedrock or Deadpool on sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. There’s no line around the corner, but fans do come by, carrying old copies of X-Force and Youngblood, excited and nervous to meet their hero. Liefeld signs the covers happily. It’s clear that he revels in such attention and seems honestly excited to meet enthusiastic fans—he calls them “dude” and leans over the table with an overzealous smile, holding up a newly minted sketch when anyone asks to take his picture.

In many ways it’s a far cry from those days, 15 year ago, when he became, arguably, the industry’s first true rock star. He appeared, as detractors will be quick to tell you, in a Spike Lee-directed Levi’s button fly commercial, back at the height of his powers. The industry has plenty of new creative gods, as Liefeld gladly admits—the Morrisons and the Millars and the Bendis—many established while he was taking a three year sabbatical from the industry he’d virtually held in the palm of his hand, a decade before.

But in 2009, Liefeld doesn’t seem too troubled by such things. Rather, the artist appears outwardly eager to engage his fans, and even more eager to address his critics. I’d be lying if I suggested that some of the appeal in interviewing an artist like Liefeld didn’t lie in the controversies that have arisen around him over the years—the sometimes questionable anatomies, the issues with character copyrights, the personality disputes. There’s something fascinating in all of them—but perhaps what’s even more fascinating is how long such criticisms have occupied the consciousness  of the comics community. After all, plenty of artists have been maligned before in this industry, but they’ve largely come and gone with all deliberate speed. Despite, or perhaps because of the criticisms levied against him, the specter of Rob Liefeld won’t go away—and, if he has his way, neither will Rob Liefeld the artist.

Whatever personal criticisms one might harbor against Liefeld, the artist is an undeniably important character, both in the worlds of mainstream and independent cartooning. In the early 90s, the young artist was part of a movement alongside artists like Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane that helped re-energize the super hero comic. Alongside those artists, he helped launch a new comics independent comics company that helped strike a major blow against the Marvel/DC stranglehold on the industry.

It’s for these reasons that I felt compelled to speak with Liefeld, upon seeing a paper placard bearing his name on the Image table. My intent was not to celebrate nor denounce the man (plenty of people have done both before), but rather to speak to him as an artist who had—for both better and worse—left a major mark on the industry. Liefeld, for his part, agreed, but was undeniably hesitant—”five minutes,” he tells me, referring to the maximum duration of our interview. And, at least toward the beginning, a touch standoffish. The artist had clearly come to anticipate being bombarded by controversy. Of course such things didn’t cause him to hesitate from boasting about his accomplishments, result in such gems as, “The two most popular characters in comics right now—one is Barack Obama, the other is Deadpool.”

For my part, there was a fair share of internal debate leading up to the publication of this interview. I considered scrapping it, or finding another home for it. Ultimately, however, I was convinced by a handful of readers and colleagues to run with it—that, as stated before, Liefeld is an important figure, and an interview with him is certainly of value, even to our indie-devoted readership. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I hope readers will be able to approach the interview with an open mind, because, again, no matter how you feel about the artist or his work, you have to admit, stories of comic creators don’t come much more interesting than that of Rob Liefeld.

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Guest Strip: Gary Fields

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katztzGary Fields was raised on Hanna-Barbera cartoons, MAD Magazine and Marvel Comics. For the last 25 years, he’s been a cartoonist.

He started with Threat! for Fantagraphics and  Superswine comics for Kaptain Keen & Kompany.  He also spent 15 years at CRACKED Magazine, and made Nickelodeon comics for Marvel, and H-B and Cartoon Network comics for DC.  Basically, Fields is a pro.

Currently he works full-time for The Children’s Place, creating cool graphics for T-shirts and toys, but he still draws gag cartoons for Nickelodeon Magazine and National Geographic Kids and comics for Image Comics’ PopGun volumes.  In his spare time he works on personal projects, such as this strip inspired by a cat-loving friend of his.  Enjoy!

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I’m Not From Here by Kenn Minter

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I’m Not From Here
by Kenn Minter
Near Mint Press

infhModesty, dear reader, has no place in autobiographical comics.

Let the demure write fiction, and sew their own experience into a quilt of monikers and fantasy and fraudulence.  Fiction’s not real, but it’s readable and tasteful to some.  Still, I like the grotesque honesty of autobiography, and I want to see it at its best, which is why today I’ll pick a little on Kenn Minter‘s book I’m Not From Here.

An autobiographer is a special animal, my favorite beast.  He needs to lay all his fleshy terribleness on the page without excuses, and if he can’t, he should go back to storytelling.

I’m Not From Here clearly promises “slightly embellished autobiographical comic strips,” but it falls flat as just another weak foray into the genre.

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The Cross Hatch is Two!

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Sunrise, sunset. It seems like only yesterday that we gave the world exactly what it needed, yet another comics blog, but already the site has begun teething and walking. The next thing we know, it’ll be borrowing the car and raiding the liquor cabinet. Misguided childhood analogies aside, just wanted to take a brief moment to thank everyone out there who has helped make this site what it is.
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Closed Caption Comics’ “Adolescent Rage” Exhibit

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Last weekend, while the rest of New York’s geek community were off getting their Star Wars and video game fixes at Comic Con, I ventured into the hippest of all indie territories—Williamsburg, Brooklyn—to check out a show that was closing at Cinders Gallery called “Adolescent Rage.”

The exhibition was the effort of Closed Caption Comics, a Baltimore-based collective of all-around creative folks who produce zines, comics, and art, as well as play in bands, run a music label—Lost Ghost Records—and organize an all-female performance festival, Puss Fust. Not bad.

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