Jin & Jam by Hellen Jo

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Jin & Jam
By Hellen Jo
Sparkplug

hellenjojinandjamno1Kids can be cruel—especially to one another. There’s really no revelation in that statement. Surely we’ve all been tormented by peers in some form or another.  For better or worse, it’s a key part of the process of growing up—for the cast of teenage nihilists that populate the first issue of Hellen Jo’s new Sparkplug series, however, it’s something of a way of life.

There’s a strange rhythm to Jin & Jam. It’s hardly noticeable at first, just slightly off the norm. Jo introduces Jam first, gnawing on a greasy McDonald’s hamburger on the sidewalk in front of a church on a Sunday morning. Next to her is Hank, in ripped jeans and long hair, reclining, knees up, puffing on a cigarette. These kids are clearly troublemakers.  Jam, on the other hand, makes her first appearance well-dressed, stepping out of church. She berates the two hoodlums for loitering. The dichotomy between the titular characters is made fairly clear early on.

The first sure sign that we’re operating slightly off the norm here is a quick visual cue—panels of Jin and Jam on a background of fish floating by, for no immediately discernable reason—it’s easy to write such visual digressions off, however, as Jo’s art is clearly steeped heavily in a manga tradition—one that’s never been too heavily invested in the laws of reality. Moments later, Jin upsets the black and white character balance by snatching an unlit cigarette into her bible for later consumption. There are no truly “good” characters in Jin & Jam, at seems, just different shades of “bad.”

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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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Interview: Sparkplug’s Dylan Williams Pt. 1

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[The above image was named from my MoCCA 2008 Flickr set, with apologies to Aaron Renier.]

Though it’s existed for a half-dozen years, it was the publication of Jason Shiga’s Eisner-nominated Bookhunter last May that truly established Sparkplug Comics as an indie comics force to be reckoned with. A labor of love turned career for Dylan Williams—a cartoonist himself—the Portland-based publishing house has continued to impress, with a continued to build steam with roster of books from the likes of Renee French, Dash Shaw, Andy Hartzell, and Elijah Brubaker. Still, as a business, Sparkplug has remained decidedly understated, ostensibly a three-person operation, Williams included, a direct result he insists, of the punk rock ethos on which he was weaned, growing up in Berkeley, California.

Having re-introduced myself to Williams at this year’s MoCCA, now seemed the opportune time to sit down with Sparkplug’s owner, during these few moments of much needed downtime between HeroesCon and San Diego.

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