Interview: Susie Cagle Talks Occupy Oakland

Categories:  Features, Interviews

Susie Cagle was teargassed yesterday, ducked on the sidewalk in an attempt to avoid rubber bullets from police weapons. The cartoonist has spent much of her past week camped out at Occupy Oakland, gathering fodder for an illustrated history of the movement (one you can help fund here, if so inclined), and by sheer presence, becoming a part of the event.

We managed to grab a few moments of her time ahead of this evening’s events to discuss the movement,  objectivity, and what it means to be a graphic journalist.

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Remembering Dylan Williams

Categories:  Features

We all knew it was a possibility, certainly, but I don’t think any of us really expected it to happen — I know I certainly didn’t. After asking cartoonists to recommend their favorite Sparkplug titles (which we continue to whole-heartedly recommend, of course), we got a note from Dylan Williams’ close friend, cartoonist Tom Neely, letting us know that Williams was doing well, was in good spirits, and was genuinely touched by the outpouring of support and love directed toward him and Sparkplug. And besides, Williams had already tackled this before, and was seemingly stronger before it.

Most of us heard the news on Saturday night, as many of our friends and colleagues were prepping for the Ignatz awards, a celebration of the industry to which he’d devoted his life — an event it no doubt pained Williams to have to skip. And despite all the evidence, disbelief was my first reaction, finding out the news in Twitter of all places.

There’s just not enough space to list the reasons why Williams was important and well-loved–in an industry so fueled by internal drama, it’s hard nearly impossible to find someone who’s managed to come out of the relentless gossip unscathed, but I can honestly say that, in all of my years in comics, I’ve never heard a negative word spoken about Dylan Williams. He was, so far as I can tell, universally loved in this world. Williams devoted his life to alternative comics and his love for the medium shone through some of the most important indie titles of the past decade and projects like the Portland Zine Symposium.

Williams seemed a perpetual positive character both at shows and through all of our interactions online as a supporter of what we do here, and, as evidenced by Neely’s note, it was a positivity that Williams carried with him until his much too early end.

Baffled by how to approach such a loss, I reached out to some mutual friends (Williams had plenty of those), asking for stories and remembrances to help us drive home just how important he was to all of us and the community we love. There was, not surprisingly, an outpouring of grief on the subject — also not surprising is the fact that many folks are still processing the whole thing and attempting to figure out how to address the matter. We’ve collected a few responses below, plus memorials from cartoonists’ personal blogs.

And for those still looking for the right words, we’ll continue to build out the list for as long as people have additions. Please add your own in the comments below.


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Today is International Read Comics in Public Day

Categories:  Features

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I wasn’t even supposed to be here today—not in this city, not in this country. I had big plans for staging a Read Comics in Public Day photo at Newark Airport, or maybe in a plane over the Atlantic on the way to Berlin. We’ll all have to settle for the above shot taken atop a table in a bagel shop in Astoria, Queens. But even with that pang of disappointment in mind, there’s something oddly romantic about the concept of reading comics at the end of the world.

The worst of Irene has passed over us, but it’s still ominous out there, all windy and gray and wet, pieces of trees in the street and the fronts of numerous stores still taped and boarded. The subways are still blocked off, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to leave my neighborhood, so for today’s second annual RCiPD, it was just me, an everything bagel, and a copy of D&Q’s upcoming Daybreak collection—an appropriate choice, given the chaos outside.

Images of the event have been pouring in all day, and from the looks of it, our friends across the globe have been faring much better than us. We’ve received submissions from Germany, Brazil, the Philippines, all over the US, and more. And we’re expecting the images to keep coming in, as the day progresses, given the tremendous feedback we’ve seen with the countless planned meetups.

I’ve pulled a few favorites from today’s event (so far). Please check them out, after the break. And a special thanks to Wired, USA Today, Comics Alliance, and all the other countless people and publications who have spread the word this year.


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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.

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Happy Birthday, Brian Heater!

Categories:  Features

Happy Birthday Brian

Brian Heater turns 30 years old today.

You know Brian Heater, our Editor in Chief. Among other things, he’s also the guy who writes about your shows, reviews your books, runs your festival programming, DJs your parties, tweets so you’ll laugh, asks about your legacy with comics, creates awesome podcasts you should hear — only awesome things, basically — and so much of what he puts into the world is free to enjoy.

He’s a pretty generous and amazing human being actually.

Awhile back, we briefly discussed a funny idea for a con sketchbook he had: Coin operated kiddie rides often found outside of supermarkets. I could see then that the idea had potential, certainly. Immediately it brought to mind creepy horses and cute spaceships.

It also got me thinking: Even if Brian was the kind of dude who would pass around a sketchbook at a con (not likely) he probably wouldn’t have time to shop it around, being busy 110% of the time with interviews and everything else. So here’s a small attempt to seed a sketchbook for him that may never get a chance to be complete.

I asked some of our favorite artists to contribute to this special surprise birthday post for Brian, and they delivered big time. Some drew their own version of these machines while others drew what I can only hope to assume are portraits of the man himself — plus inside jokes.

As the drawings rolled in, and after some reflection, kiddie rides to me felt like a weirdly perfectly idea to come along at just the right time for this purpose. As Tom Hart puts it in his gift to Brian, “ride the ride, pal!”

Brian’s next 30 years are sure to surprise and delight us all, so here’s to one of the nicest guys in comics: Happy Birthday, Brian Heater!

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The Cross Hatch Rehash: Fresh Meat 2011

Categories:  Features

I almost let this one get away from me entirely. Blame the 12-hour days at the new job or the fact that I’m still in convention decompression mode, weeks after the end of MoCCA Fest. Whatever the case, I’d somehow missed all of the notes about the upcoming Fresh Meat event, including the ones posted in Dispatches on our own site, caught completely off-guard until the afternoon of, when Heidi MacDonald sent me an e-mail, asking if we’d be reprising our annual tradition of an SVA meetup, followed by a turkey at the diner across the street.

I balked at the suggestion, having largely eschewed social engagements over the past couple of weeks, as I attempt to adjust to a new work schedule, but it was clear too, that I’d regret blowing off the event altogether, in favorite of getting to sleep at an early hour on a Friday. For one thing, there’s an irresistible appeal in the notion of discovering a promising artist’s work in its earliest state, the rough photocopied minis of some future Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly rock star, and Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts certainly has proven track record of churning out top names in the industry.

There’s also a lot to be said for show largely devoid of the trappings that define the majority of comics conventions—like the costumes that have even managed to worm their way into some of the more indie-focused show. Sure, there are affectations aplenty at SVA’s annual open house—the gentleman lounging with sleep masks on a foldout couch behind their table comes to mind—this is an art school, after all, but there’s no semblance of commercialism beyond the simple fact of young artists attempting to get some small sum in exchange for their handmade products.

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The Comic Shops of Philadelphia: A Walking Tour

Categories:  Features

I spent this past week between jobs, for the first time in nearly five years. After working for so long without a break, it’s hard to know what to do with yourself when a little time off presents itself. I considered, for a moment, embracing the in vogue notion of the staycation, but I couldn’t foresee a scenario involving me at home in Queens without work for a week that didn’t end in a Shining-esque trip through the hedge maze of sanity.

I ran down a quick list of possible destinations—somewhere cheap, somewhere quick. A place I could get to in a manner of hours, spend a day or two in, and then return home a day or so before clocking in at my new job. I needed a place to decompress alone from the fever pitch of stress that comes with quitting a job and helping run a major comics festival.

I settled on Philadelphia, booking a trip on the Megabus for $11 each way. I didn’t have a particular plan of action in mind upon arrival—just a lot of walking. Philly, thankfully, is a blissfully walkable city. This was my second time in the City of Brotherly Love—the first time I took a Chinatown bus down, but had shied away from that method of transportation in light of recent events.

I’d gotten much of the museum and historical sight seeing out of the way on that trip, so I solicited recommendations from locals, asking for record stores, used bookstores, bars, and comic shops. The comic shop tour sprung up fairly organically from there—once I visited my first store, it was clear that I had to check out the competition.

What follows is a very incomplete catalog of Philadelphia’s comic shops. It is, frankly, what I managed to see on that front in a little under two days. Apologies for any essential locations I missed, or for those that didn’t get a fair shake–I spent what I considered a reasonable amount of time for a shopper in each, save for Locust Moon, whose friendly owner and I spoke about the store for what seemed like an hour. I also took shots of the stores. Some are better documented that others—in some settings, asking to shoot someone’s store feels a bit awkward, so I just played it by ear.

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MoCCA Fest 2011: The Cross Hatch Rehash

Categories:  Features, News

I’m not sure if it’s common policy among festival organizers of the world, but it’s something that I instated after last year’s MoCCA Fest: A two month moratorium on all discussions of next year’s show. You can talk amongst yourselves, of course, but I ask kindly (for the sake of my own well-being) to please refrain from any discussion of April 2012 until at least June 2012.

There’s a certain physical and mental toll, I think, that comes with helping run even the most successful convention. It certainly applied to the three shows I ran programming for last year—MoCCA Fest, MIX, and King Con in Brooklyn. Three shows that honestly didn’t have all that much in common, save for subject matter and the fact that, after each, I lamented the non-existence of human hibernation.

It’s worth pointing out, I think, that on a personal note, the timing of the show couldn’t have been worse—certainly through no fault of the museum’s. They, after all, had scheduled the event over a year ago. And it was only a little over two weeks go that I officially gave notice at PCMag, making for something of a critical mass of personal and professional stress, as I attempted to close things out at work and put the finishing touches on the weekend’s programming (no amount of pre-preparation on my part has ever made it possible to avoid that last minute crunch), cleaning out my office and sending off goodbye letters to colleagues and coworkers.

I left my office one final time and crossed the street to the 6 train station, heading down the to festival kickoff party, officially slotted to begin an hour later. I was fairly dazed, cursing the subway delays, when I heard my name cut through the rush hour crowd in the station. As far as omens go, one could certainly do worse than running into Drawn & Quarterly’s Peggy Burns on New York City transit the night before MoCCA Fest. She was heading back down to the Strand bookstore for the first “Strandicon,” a Friday event in which D&Q’s roster played heavily.

[More Images]

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Mark Siegel Promotes Comics in Minneapolis

Categories:  Features
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I’ve known for awhile that First Second’s Editorial Director Mark Siegel would come to Minneapolis this winter. Until he arrived, I didn’t understand why.

Minneapolis, I now know, was the second stop on his “goodwill tour” (my words). Siegel is meeting with booksellers, organizers, librarians and students in an effort to promote comics readership and by extension First Second Books.

He’s reaching out to the people who matter in the comics world who we rarely talk about — the connectors.  People who are positioned to take comics seriously and bring new readers to the medium.  His travels have taken him to Seattle and Minneapolis so far.

Siegel’s tour may lead to other cities, I didn’t get his full itinerary, but I know he spent nearly a week in Minneapolis:

I attended a Thursday dinner where representatives from local bookstores, reading groups, writing centers and universities were present.  I see that he’s really reaching out; hopefully making a big impression on our local literary scene and reigniting excitement and interest in the graphic novel.

On Friday his time was spent largely with the folks at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD), talking with seniors during the day and at night giving a presentation on graphic novels to a packed house.  The talk was sponsored by Rain Taxi (a literary magazine that also reviews comics and runs the Rain Taxi Festival of Books), MCAD and Big Brain Comics.

Saturday he delivered a talk on graphic novels to the Children’s Literature Network, an event that targeted librarians and educators and discussed comic editing and publishing at the Loft Literary Center.

Monday he stopped by comic shops around town, including Dreamhaven (closed, unfortunately) and The Source Comics & Games, and ran a workshop on creating graphic novels through the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Tuesday he met with a group of public librarians through the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), a library group that includes the majority of the metro area’s public libraries — including Hennepin County Library, one of the top library systems in the nation.

I was able to attend his talk at MCAD and have transcribed parts of it below.

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Lunch Break 2.18.2011

Categories:  Features
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Lunch Break is a short round-up of favorite webcomics appearing here each weekday at noon. Here’s something for you to enjoy over your lunch break or whenever. The premise is simple: it’s another day on the internet. Here’s a new or forgotten comic that seems interesting. Have something to recommend? Email us:

  1. “#2134” from Cyanide & Happiness by Kris, Rob, Matt and Dave // August 8, 2010
  2. “Make a Wish” from Weenage Tasteland by unknown // 2008
  3. Garfield by Jim Davis // June 19, 2009
  4. “Happy Birthday” from Amazing Super Powers by Wes & Tony // September 2008
  5. My Life in a Cube by Shane Johnson // February 20, 2009

Sarah Morean