Easter Sunday at The KGB Bar, New York, NY

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Curator Tom Hart referred to it as something of a ramshackle version of R. Sikoryak’s Carousel—a New York indie comics institution of sorts. It’s a fairly apt description, but over the past few years, the Hart-curated Easter Sunday Comix Reading at the KGB Bar has lovingly stumbled into become a tradition in its own right, a gathering for the unreligious, the non-Christian, and the otherwise holiday orphaned members of the New York sequential art community.

The Hutch Owen artist has seemingly begun to take a certain amount of pride in the unpredictability of the show’s form, which last November, at the Thanksgiving version of the reading, produced Matthew Thurber’s now-infamous scroll reading of 1-800-Mice, a fantastic, if not especially environmentally-sound take on the show’s traditional slideshow format.

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Beasts: Book 2 Curated by Jacob Covey

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beastsbook2It would have been a hard sell at nearly any other publisher, a coffee table art book devoted to the much maligned pseudo-science of cryptozoology—let alone a sequel to such a thing. And, had someone actually bit and jumped at the opportunity, the results would likely have been an unmitigated disaster.

In the loving hands of Fantagraphics, however, Beasts: Book 2 is a thing of beauty, from the fittingly classical packaging, presented with shades of Chris Ware and a metallic ink on the edges of the pages that unintentionally shed onto the hands of all who pick it up, to the impressive roster of artists—a sort of coming together of indie comic’s new and old guards, from Kim Deitch and Peter Bagge to Kazimir Strzepek and Jillian Tamaki.

It’s hard to say exactly who the target audience is with a book like Beasts, but surely there’s a fair-sized overlap between lovers of the paranormal and connoisseurs of fine alternative art. The bulk of the second Beasts is devoted to 96 plates. Each features a brief description of a fantastic creature from the world of cryptozoology, accompanied by a one or two page artistic representation of said animal. The beauty of the pieces is not only in the skill of the artists on display, but also the diversity of a stable that includes both cartoonists and artists from other worlds like children’s books, fine art, poster design, and skate graphics.

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Interview: Dash Shaw Pt. 3 [of 3]

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As a graduate of Mahattan’s School for the Visual Art who has been actively creating his own comics since middle school, it seems like a stretch, at best, to consider Dash Shaw an outsider artist, in spite of his penchant for non-traditional forms of graphic storytelling. Still, the Shaw argues that, in many cases, some of the most exciting things happening in the world of sequential art are being created by artists who are largely unfamiliar with the form.

It’s fitting, then, that Shaw himself has tried his hand at a number of other artistic mediums, which have, in turn, influenced his comics. In this third and final part of out interview conducted at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, we discuss Shaw foray animation, the influence of outsider artists, and why his music career—or lack thereof—never really  took off.

[Part One] [Part Two]
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Interview: Dash Shaw Pt. 2 [of 3]

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“It’s a weird book,” says Dash Shaw, frankly, describing Bottomless Belly Button. The artist is delighted—if slightly baffled—about the book’s success. Soon after being release in June on Fantagraphics, the book was declared the graphic novel of the year but a number of fans and critics, with another six months still left until 2009.

Shaw’s own assessment is fairly apt, of course. Beyond its girth, Bottomless Belly Button seems a peculiar contender for the year’s best comic—it’s graphically simple—drawn with what the artist refers to as a “dumb line,” slow moving, and catalogs its own imagery with an almost obsessive compulsive drive. It is, perhaps, exactly these elements that make the book such a surprise hit.

Whatever the case may be, Shaw is very humble about the praise that has been heaped upon him in the last few months, working with his head down on the followup, BodyWorld, which is currently being serialized on the Web, and will soon be collected as a book by Pantheon.

In this second of our three-part interview, we discuss bookmarks, the compulsion to draw large breasted women, and what was in 13-year-old Dash’s middle school notebooks.

[Part One]
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Interview: Dash Shaw Pt. 1 [of 3]

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It didn’t take long for reviewers to begin lavishing praise upon Bottomless Belly Button. Before Dash Shaw’s 700-odd page tome was released, back in June, critics and artists alike were already heralding it as the graphic novel of the year, the subsequent six months be damned.

Even at that length, the book is deceptively simple, thanks in a large degree to what Shaw refers to as a “dumb line,” as he quietly discusses his art in an bench-lined alcove downstairs from the chat of Bethesda’s Small Press Expo.

It’s a surprisingly frank assessment of his own work, but like book it describes, the comment is far more complex than it initially lets on. Shaw is an artist who prides himself on putting a good deal of thought into even the dumbest of lines, constructing an image and subsequent book that can read and enjoyed in no time flat, but require repeat visitations to be fully understood, which, of course, assumes—perhaps falsely—that they can ever be understood fully.

Halfway through October, the book still seems a likely candidate for a good many year end lists, and Shaw, for his part, while still happy to discuss the intricacies of the book, has long since moved on to his next masterwork.

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The Cross Hatch Dispatch 08/05/08

Categories:  The Cross Hatch Dispatch
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[Above, absence in book form. Below, filling in the Dispatch void.]

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Interview: Sparkplug’s Dylan Williams Pt. 3 [of 3]

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Based out of the alternative publishing capital of Portland, Oregon, Sparkplug Books is regularly issuing some of the most exciting work being released in comics today. When he first launched the company, cartoonist Dylan Williams was seeking to expose unsigned talent, while keeping check to make sure that the publishing house largely adhered to his DIY roots.

To true to its mission statement, Sparkplug has occupied a happy medium between the world of self-published, photocopied zines and the kingpin indie publishers like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.

In this final part of our interview with Williams we discuss the importance of being Portland, artist loyalty, and why the hell an indie comics publisher would be caught dead in the hall of the San Diego Comic Con.

[Part One] [Part Two]

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Interview: Sparkplug’s Dylan Williams Pt. 2

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While it was the release of Jason Shiga’s Eisner-nominated Bookhunter that brought Sparkplug Books to the attention of cultural critics across the country, without an equally strong roster of subsequent releases, it would have been easy to write the Portland-based publisher’s single book success off as a fluke.

Much to his credit, however, founder Dylan Williams—himself a cartoonist—has continually demonstrated a keen eye for spotting some of the most exciting artists toiling away in the small press universe, a fact reflected by a recent string of intriguing new releases by artists like Chris Wright, Trevor Alixopolous, and Elijah Brubaker.

In this second of a three part interview, we discuss Williams’s editorial role in the creation of books, the importance of staying small, and answer that question that is no doubt weighing heavy on everyone’s mind: just what the hell is Jason Shiga up to, these days?

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