The Best of Sparkplug

Categories:  Features

We need Dylan Williams. Over the past several years, his work has become as vital to our community as that of any cartoonist. His Portland-based Sparkplug Comics has brought a parade of talent across our periphery, debuting books by artists that may well have never gotten their due from the larger independent publishing house — and that’s only one aspect of his role in the greater comics community.

And now, sadly, for reasons outlined by Sarah, Dylan Williams need us. Doing what you love doesn’t also afford one a large safety net, and now, after he’s given us so much, it’s time for us to give a little back. Doing so is as simple as buying some books from his site. You get comics, you help a friend. Sounds like a good deal to us.

In the off-chance that you need a little more convincing, we’ve asked some our favorite artists to recommend one of their favorite Sparkplug books for you to add to your cart. Not surprisingly, many had trouble picking just one — a plight we can certainly appreciate. We will be adding cartoonists’ favorites for as long as they keep coming in.

Box Brown: I love the Reich series and all of David King’s books.  Eschew 1 and 2 by Robert Sergel are fantastic.  Sergel’s drawings would be perfect for “how-to” instructional illustrations.  Just some damn fine cartooning.

Austin English: Sausage Hand by Andrew Smith. This book has so much of what I love about comics—Smith’s characters change in shape and size and emotion as the story unfolds. It’s cruel, violent and funny without being ‘satire’ or ‘absurdist.’ Rather, it is what it is—a short, black and white comic about an odd character.

Edie Fake: Reporter #1 is our first glimpse of Willoughby, but instead of being straight up small-town tales, this issue winds stories around stories. The structure gives me some flashes of Ice Haven, but this town is a whole different beast, and Williams’ comics are earnest and clear. Issue #2 of Williams’  starts seriously braiding the characters around each other. This time uptight Ivar, the private documentarian, falls in with Felicia Frame who secretly lives in one of the town’s abandoned buildings. Mystery brewings begin here, and the feeling is in the air that things are about to get complicated.

Annie Murphy’s Xeric Award-winning I Still Live is a powerhouse of a comic, delving into the life and times of 19th Century Spiritualist, Achsa Sprague, and channeling a merging of political activism with spiritual openness, something that can easily be forgotten in an era plagued with apathies. The book deftly weaves the past into the present and reminds us of the undercurrents of magical truth that nourish our logical minds behind the scenes. Best of all worlds.

Jin an Jam is a head-on collision of California 2 Cool 4 School and Tekkon Kinkreet. -Yeah, it really is that good. Hellen Jo’s drawings are perfect and her action-packed San Jose misfit tween girl rampage fights dirty the whole way through. It’s an impeccable tornado of an issue and if you come out with a black eye and gum in your hair, you’ll consider yourself lucky.

Wow, after a long hard journey, Gay Genius has finally come out, and it’s a complete force. It’s a queer comics anthology I feel totally honored to be part of and have been raving about to anyone who will listen. Completely QUILTBAG, humming around the theme of history, these comics are as visually lush as they are diverse in style and perspective. It’s a vision of queer legacy that both honors and complicates ancestry, identity, community and family, not to mention that the work here also challenges the traditional boundaries of what  (and who) constitutes “comics”. Xeric-winning editor Annie Murphy has created a lovely and conversational  rhythm between the direct and abstract narratives of the book.

Minty Lewis: Okay, so I haven’t actually purchased/read it myself yet, but I am so, so excited about Passage by Tessa Brunton. I’ve been enjoying her funny and fun-to-look-at minicomics for years and am so glad that Sparkplug is finally bringing her work to the big screen. People would be foolish not to buy Passage, just foolish.

Dustin Harbin: I have written a lot about my love for David King’s Lemon Styles, which came out last year. I can’t stop talking about it; not content with writing about it as one of my three favorite books of 2010, I interviewed David, just so I could talk about it a little more. Besides being extraordinarily good-looking cartooning, just in terms of craft, execution, and surface appeal, David’s approach to the underlying elements of comics is deceptively complex. While each comic is its own piece–even the short train story in Lemon Styles can be read as a series of almost haiku-like short pieces–it’s how they’re set that gives them a lot of their power. They exist as itchy almost-portraits of a pseudo-time, at once current and anachronistic, warm and off-putting. To me David King is one of the few–and I mean very few–cartoonists working today who is utilizing the unique medium of comics to say something that truly could not be said elsewhere. Or at least could not be said with the same grace, poise, and irascible cleverness.

Tom Neely: Austin English’s The Disgusting Room is possibly the greatest example of “art comix” ever created.

Chris Cilla is a national treasure. Everything he draws turns to gold… The Heavy Hand is a masterpiece.

David King is a cranky jerk, but I love his comics more than I love my yet-to-be-born children.

I only hope that someday I will create something as amazing as John Hankiewicz’s Asthma.

I could go on and on…

Eric Reynolds: My favorite thing Dylan has ever done, despite publishing a world class lineup of great contemporary comics, is his defunct EIGHTY-SIX zine, devoted to great comics and cartoonists of the past. It is one of my favorite zines of all time, a real treasure trove of gems from guys like Jesse Marsh, Lyonel Feininger, Ogden Whitney, Gluyas Williams, Mort Meskin, etc. Dylan is not just an asset to comics as a publisher and distributor but also as a historian and critic. He’s just a huge asset to comics.

Jim Rugg: Tales to Demolish #3 by Eric Haven. The entire series is awesome, but I’d highly recommend this one for fans of Dan Clowes’ Death Ray and/or Michael Kupperman’s work. It’s a funny, entertaining, well-drawn take on the superhero genre.


6 Comments to “The Best of Sparkplug”

  1. David King | August 24th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Tom Neely is a crybaby.

  2. darryl ayo brathwaite | August 25th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Jin & Jam!!


    CrossHatch readers NEED to own these comics. Seriously, you can’t even understand what you’re missing!

  3. Rob Kirby | August 26th, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Jin and Jam, PS Comics, John P., MariNaomi, BLAMMO!, Carrie McNinch, Edie Fake, Gay Genuis, I Still Live, Big Plans, Reich, the list goes on and on…

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