In December of 2016, Top Shelf Productions published the first issue of Erin Nations’s Gumballs, the one of four issues that would be released over the course of the following year. This quarterly ran as a one-personal anthology, a collection of stories and observations, many of which were autobiographical in nature. Gumballs stood out among its peers in that it recalled the kind of comic books we used to get from other alternative creators such as Seth, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware. Now those creators have turned to the “graphic novel” or book form, and it’s a rarity that we get a comic book like this, making Gumballs stand out as a title of note. Now those four issues have been collected as a trade, one that has just been made available in the direct market and next week will be out for wider release. In this interview, Derek talks with Erin Nations about the genesis of his Gumballs series, his thoughts on being an autobiographical cartoonist, how he uses comics to chronicle his transitioning, and the various tones he strikes among the many stories contained within his series.
Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, was a street photographer for New York’s popular press during the 1930s and 1940s. He worked primarily in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and he developed a signature style that captured a gritty, unflinching view of urban life. What’s more, he was, famous, or rather infamous, for adjusting his tableau, in particular the position of dead bodies at crime scenes, in order to capture an image that was to his liking. Max de Radiguès, along with his co-creator Wauter Mannaert, has decided to take on this historical figure as the subject matter of his latest book, Weegee: Serial Photographer. In this interview, Derek talks with Max about his fascination over Weegee, the origins of this project, and the challenges of writing such a condensed graphic biography. But we also cover Max’s previous work, Moose, and what we might expect from his upcoming book, Bastard, being released this fall from Fantagraphics.
Gene and Derek are happy to have Dean Haspiel on The Comics Alternative to discuss his new book from Image Comics, The Red Hook, Vol. 1: New Brooklyn. This is the first in a planned trilogy introducing readers to his universe of New Brooklyn. The Red Hook is a reluctant hero. Once a super-thief, his unlikely encounter with the legendary superhero, The Green Point, bequeathes unto him The Omni-Fist of Altruism. This transform him into a hero, where he cannot resist helping others in distress, despite his better judgment. In this role, The Red Hook becomes a major player in New Brooklyn, a borough whose heart had been broken by commerce and real estate speculation, and, as a result, secedes from New York, and America. Sound unlikely? Well, listen to Dean as he explains the premise and his plans for future New Brooklyn narratives. The guys talk with Dean, asking him a variety of questions not only about his new book, but about his other publications, as well. But then Dean turns the tables and begins interviewing Gene and Derek. It’s a wild experience with an indefatigable Haspiel.
Derek first talked to Karl Stevens in February of last year, and during that discussion he had mentioned that he was working on a new project for Retrofit/Big Planet called The Winner, and now we have the book out, being released on May 23. The two discuss Karl’s new work, its very autobiographical quality — no masking any identities here — and it’s curious structure and fantastical interludes. But they also talk about Karls others works, as well, including the Xeric Award-winning Guilty (2004), his series of books that followed, all published by Alternative Comics — Whatever (2008), The Lodger (2010), and Failure (2013)– as well as his Penny strips that ran in the Village Voice between November 2016 and March 2017. Karl is wonderful guy to interview, as you’ll hear from the conversation.
On past episodes of The Comics Alternative, the Two Guys have discussed comics fandom and zine culture quite often, although usually the context surrounds American fan activity. But as Derek points out in his conversation with Peter Normanton, he has little knowledge of fanzines outside of the states, particularly within the United Kingdom. That’s why Peter’s latest book, It Crept from the Tomb, was such an enlightening read. Normanton was the publisher and editor of the UK horror zine, From the Tomb, which began in 2000 and ran for over 20-some issues. Several years ago, he was approached by Roy Thomas about the possibility editing a collection from the pages of his horror zine, and the result was The Best of From the Tomb, which came out from TwoMorrows Publishing in 2012. And then more recently, John Morrow asked Peter about a second “best of” collection surrounding From the Tomb…and this request eventually became Peter’s newest release, It Crept from the Tomb. In his conversation with Peter Normanton, Derek talks with his guest about his time as an editor and publisher, the history of comics in in the UK, his love of the horror genre and comics fandom, and the many challenges he faced in putting out a fanzine over the years.
NOTE: Over the course of Derek’s conversation with Peter, they experienced occasional problems with the internet connection. Peter lives in northwest Britain, and at times the connection on Skype was sketchy. So apologies in advance for the several breaks and momentary silences that are noticeable on Peter’s track. Still, the gist of his comments comes through clearly, so please overlook any technical difficulties they may have had.
Readers of Alison McCreesh’s 2015 work, Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story, know about the draw northern climates has on her and the love she has for pioneer-like exploration. In her new book, Norths: Two Suitcases and a Stroller around the Circumpolar World, released last month from Conundrum Press, Alison ramps up those affections. It’s an account of her six-month trip to circumpolar regions and her time in four art residencies in Finland, Russia, Greenland, and Iceland, all above the 60thParallel. Traveling with her partner Patrice and her son Riel, Alison kept a diary of her experiences in the form of postcards that she sent off almost daily to friends and supporters who had agreed to back her project. The result is a unique travelogue, in sequential postcard form, of her exploration of northern climates, her experiences at the various residencies, and her attempts at trying to balance life, work, and family. Norths is an engaging hybrid text, and in this interview episode, Derek has an insightful talk with Alison about her process, her love of travel writing, and whether or not she considers the new book a work of comic art.
The Two Guys talk with a lot of comics creators about their craft, their ideas, and their passions. But they never really talk with them about their health. On this interview episode, Gene and Derek have as their guest an artist who is all about health and well-being. Kriota Willberg, whose new book Draw Stronger: Self-Care For Cartoonists and Other Visual Artists (Uncivilized Books) was released last month, discusses her experiences in health care, her years as a massage therapist, and how it all informs her creative trajectory. Draw Stronger is a text targeted to visual artists who work within fine and detailed contexts, and it provides helpful means to avoid pain and address the kind of physical practices that will best nurture creativity. The book is divided into three sections, revealing the basics of creative self-care, exercises that target a variety of body movements, and useful first aid to address stress and pain while waiting to visit a health professional. Over the course of their conversation, Kriota discusses the genesis of this project in her minicomics, the ways in which humor informs her approach, the vast research that went into this guide, and how her work in bioethics has impacted her comics.
On this interview episode, Gene and Derek are happy to have Michael Kupperman on the show to discuss his new book All the Answers, just out from Simon and Shuster’s Gallery 13 imprint. Long-time fans of Kupperman will find a significant tonal shift from his earlier works such as Tales Designed to Thrizzle or Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret. This new book is an emotional and probing look at his father, Joel Kupperman, and his time as one of the famous Quiz Kids of the 1940s and 1950s. Throughout this memoir, Kupperman investigate his father’s history and attempts to understand how his time in the celebrity spotlight marked his life forever after…and at the same time, helped to determine his father’s future behavior and his family’s emotional trajectory. In this way, All the Answers serves not only as a way to understand his father, but as a means to grapple with Michael Kupperman’s own sense of self and how he relates to his own family. Over the course of their conversation, Gene and Derek talk with Michael about the research that went into his new book, the genesis of the project, his efforts in pursuing this extremely sensitive family history, and how All the Answers may be a stylistic turning point in his career.
There’s perhaps no better historian on American comics fandom than Bill Schelly. Having been a part of the zine scene in the 1960s and early 1970s, and starting when he was a teenager, Schelly worked with many of the movers and shakers within the fan community and published several fanzines of his own. In the early 1990s he returned to comics as a chronicler and as a historian, writing various overviews of comic fandom, and then later making his mark as a comics biographer, covering the lives of such creators as Joe Kubert, Otto Binder, John Stanley, and Harvey Kurtzman, the latter biography earning him a 2016 Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Book. On this interview episode, Derek talks with Bill about his new book, Sense of Wonder: My Life in Comic Fandom – the Whole Story, and his decisions to revise and expand this memoir from its original 2001 version released through TwoMorrows Publishing. This new edition of Sense of Wonder, published by North Atlantic Books, is significantly expanded, covers Schelly’s entire life up until now, and is written with a much more personal, and revealing, tone than the original. Bill discusses in detail his history in comics fandom and his growth as an editor and writer, as well as the personal milestones that have marked his life.
01:01:46 – “Gotta Get You Outta My Head,” by Zorton and the Cannibals
Self-Destruction and Tiki Bars
Zach Worton was last on the podcast about two years ago, around the time of the publication of the second volume in his Charley Butters series, The Search for Charley Butters. On that interview show, Zach discussed the development of his storyline and what to expect in the third and final volume of the series, The Death of Charley Butters. As fate would have it, Zach and his publisher, Conundrum Press, decided to hold off on publishing the third stand-alone installment, and instead, put out the entire series in one complete volume. The result is The Curse of Charley Butters, just released last month, and including the first two Charley Butter stories and what would have been the third. In fact, this complete collection reads as a tight, cohesive narrative, and getting all of the Charley Butters installments in one nice volume is definitely the way to read this story. In this interview Derek talks with Zach about the genesis of his project, the challenges involved in its serialization, the stark nature of the storytelling, and the experience of taking his protagonist down an ever-darkening downward spiral. Zach also discusses his other new work, The Weird World of Lagoola Gardner, a magazine-sized comic whose tone is completely different from Charley Butters, looser, more comedic, and reminiscent of the kind of free-wheeling garage band- and tiki-influenced publications of the late 1960s.
Pat Palermo is an artist and Xeric Award-winning cartoonist living and working in Brooklyn. In fact, the intersection of “living and working” is the subject matter of his new series coming out from AdHouse Books, LIVE/WORK. The first issue of this magazine-sized comic came out last month, and it’s an ensemble narrative concerning the exploits of New York artists as they try to make their marks in the art world, while at the same time worrying about their living arrangements. In this episode of the interview series, Derek talks with Pat about the origins of his new series, how it began as a self-published endeavor, the autobiographical links embedded among his ensemble cast, and his thoughts on writing in a more realistic or slice-of-life mode – what’s been called before on The Comics Alternative, verite dessinée. Along the way Pat discusses his own non-comics art endeavors, his Galveston Diary Project, and the ways in which his work in fine arts informs his cartooning…and vice versa.
Hazel Newlevant is an artist and editor, known for their graphic novella Sugar Town, which they call “a queer poly rom-com,” as well as Tender-Hearted, winner of the 2017 Ignatz Award for outstanding minicomic. In 2016 the Two Guys discussed Hazel’s edited collection, Chainmail Bikini, an anthology of comics by and about women games released in 2016, and for which Hazel served as editor. Earlier this year they have had two other collections where they served as co-editor: Puerto Rico Strong, released in March by Lion Forge, and Comics for Choice: Illustrated Abortion Stories, History, and Politics, an anthology of comics about abortion and reproductive rights published by Alternative Comics. During this interview, Derek talks with Hazel primarily about Comics for Choice, but they also discuss some of their other work as well, including their many efforts as an editor within the comics industry.
First Second has recently published The City on the Other Side, a historically based fantasy written by Mairghread Scott and with art by Robin Robinson. Gwen and Derek talk with the creators about their new book, the genesis behind the concept, and their decision to base their narrative in San Francisco. This is a compelling story that should have wide appeal, and not only with younger readers. Over the course of the conversation, Mairghread and Robin share their experiences researching various cultures’ folklore (upon which many of the figures are based), the importance of character design, their methods of collaboration, and the significance of maps.
On this interview episode, Derek talks with Neal Adams, Rafael Medoff, and Craig Yoe about their new book We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust (Yoe Books/IDW Publishing). All three of these guests have been on the podcast before. Derek briefly interviewed Neal Adams at a couple of different cons, releasing those conversations as part of our on-location convention shows. Rafael Medoff was part of the special roundtable on politics and comics that was releases on election eve 2016. And of course, as listeners of the podcast well know, Craig Yoe has been on the show so many times that it’s easy to lose count. What makes this such a notable episode is that all three of these guys come together at the same time to talk about their new book. Each comes with his own set of experiences with this collection, but what comes across so clearly in the interview is how Neal, Rafael, and Craig easily play off of one another and become a compelling creative team. In fact, Derek talked with them right before they headed over to the American Jewish Historical Society in New York for the book’s official launch.
Mythical figures, anthropomorphic characters, and heavy dose of magic, all set in a contemporary urban landscape complete with coffeehouses, mobile devices, and garage bands. This is the world of Moonstruck, a series that began last year and coming out from Image Comics. The writer and artist of this series, Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle, were kind enough to come on The Comics Alternative to talk about the completion of the first narrative arc and what we might expect with the second. These two creators have known each other for a long time, and, along with their editor and designer, Laurenn McCubbin, have experienced a curious incubation period for their project. Derek talks with Grace and Shae about the origins of Moonstruck, their unique mix of fantasy and contemporary cultural concerns, the process of collaboration, and their attempts to build a reading community, not only with their storytelling, but also through social media and a keen understanding of their target audience.