Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Howard Shapiro

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:22 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:58 – Interview with Howard Shapiro
  • 01:06:33 – Wrap up
  • 01:07:06 – Contact us

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Nazis in the Bathroom Just below the Stairs

A common theme in Howard Shapiro’s stories is the significance of music. His first graphic novel, The Sterotypical Freaks, revolved around competing high school bands and how that competition and their dedication to the music defined each member’s life. In his latest book, Queen of Kenosha (Animal Media Group), music once again takes center narrative state. It’s the story of young singer-songwriter from Wisconsin, Nina Overstreet, who comes to New York City in the early 1960s to make it on the folk scene. What she unexpectedly finds is espionage and ideological conspiracy. Whereas in his earlier Forever Friends series of graphic novels Howard wedded music to hockey as the backdrop for his stories, here in Queen of Kenosha — the first book in what he’s calling The Thin Thinline Trilogy — he uses music within the context of geopolitical intrigue. In this conversation, Derek talks with Howard about the impetus behind his latest project, the importance of music to his storytelling, the kind of research he conducted to set the historical stage, and his plans for following up on his songwriting protagonist. Howard was on the podcast a couple of years ago when Hockey Karma was released, and it was nice to touch base with him again and discuss his subsequent work.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Another Conversation with Tillie Walden

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:20 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:01 – Interview with Tillie Walden
  • 01:15:35 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:30 – Contact us

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Queer Women in Space, or Women in Space Who Are Queer?

Sterg and Derek are happy to have Tillie Walden back on the podcast. (She was originally on The Comics Alternative in June 2015, her very first podcast interview!) Her latest book, On a Sunbeam, will be released next week from First Second. This narrative actually began as a webcomic — one that was nominated for an Eisner Award last year, and one that is still available online — but now it will be available in print. The Two Guys talk with Tillie about the process of creating On a Sunbeam and its importance as a webcomic, the science fiction scaffolding around which the narrative is constructed, and how this work compares to some of her earlier books. In fact, much of the conversation is focused on the kind of fantastical stories Tillie spins out, with flying fish planes and cats large enough to ride on. The guys also ask her about last year’s Spinning, the winner of a 2018 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, and the creative shifts she had to make with this outright autobiography. Over the course of their conversation, Tillie shares her experiences growing as a storyteller, her large and dedicated fanbase, the almost improvisational nature of her writing, and her discomfort being pigeonholed primarily as a writer for teens or as a lesbian creator.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Jason Lutes

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:50 – Interview with Jason Lutes
  • 01:20:31 – Wrap up
  • 01:21:13 – Contact us

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Stones, Smoke, and Light

Jason Lutes began his Berlin series in the spring of 1996, with plans to publish his ambitious project over a 24-issue run. Over the years, he pared down the number of issues to 22, and the last of those was released in March of this year. Earlier this month, Drawn and Quarterly released a complete single-volume edition of Berlin, clocking in at over 550 pages, as well as a third volume of the series, City of Light, for those who had already gotten the previous two collections, City of Stones and City of Smoke, and didn’t want to get the completed series in just one volume.

Berlin is a massive narrative with an ensemble cast. It takes place in that volatile city during the last days of the Weimar Republic, 1928-1933, when Germany was struggling with its economy and war reparations, and a variety of political factions — in particular, the Communist Party and the National Socialist Workers Party — were vying for power. Lutes’s story primarily focuses on the lives of Kurt Severing, a world-weary journalist, and Marthe Müller, an uncertain art student moving to Berlin and longing to define herself in this newly adopted city. But there are a variety of other characters, as well, and Lutes even peppers his fictional cast with several historically based figures, including the jailed journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Joseph Goebbels, Josephine Baker, and, yes, Adolf Hitler himself. The result is an expansive narrative that not only captures the Weimar culture at the time, but also explores individual desires and unpredictable relationships in the midst of political and economic upheaval. In his interview with him, Derek talks with Jason about the origins of the series, the amount of research that went into the project, how the city of Berlin became a point of inspiration, the various challenges he faced maintaining such an ongoing series for over 20 years, and where Jason’s artistic ambitions may take him next.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Youssef Daoudi

Time Codes:

  • 00:24 – Introduction
  • 02:22 – Setup of interview
  • 04:01 – Interview with Youssef Daoudi
  • 52:10 – Wrap up
  • 52:47 – Contact us

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Hey, pop! Re-bop! Mop! Y-e-a-h!

Youssef Daoudi is a French creator whose previous albums include La Trilogie Noire, published by Casterman, and several works released by Glénat, including Mayday, Ring, and Tripoli. Unfortunately, these books aren’t yet available in English, but you can discover the art and storytelling of Daoudi through his brand new book from First Second, Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship behind a Musical Revolution. Indeed, as Youssef discusses with me in this interview you’re about to here, Monk! is his first work to be written originally in English, and later to be translated into French. This isn’t a graphic biography of the jazz legend, often called “The Mad Monk” or “The High Priest of Bop,” but a portrait of his relationship with Kathleen Annie Pannoica de Koenigswarter, a free-spirted and jazz-impassioned baroness who was a member of the Rothschild family. Daoudi meticulously lays out the contours of that relationship and how each sustained the other. In our conversation Derek talks with Youssef about the genesis of this project, his love of jazz, and what it was about mid-century bebop culture — and in particular, the lives of Monk and Pannonica — that so captured his imagination.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Summer Pierre

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:37 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:33 – Interview with Summer Pierre
  • 01:19:14 – Wrap up
  • 01:20:13 – Contact us

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Musical Definitions

The Two Guys were first introduced to the work of Summer Pierre during June of 2017. At the time, they were wanting to do a special episode of The Comics Alternative devoted to self-published creators, and John Porcellino recommended to Derek that they check out the work of Summer Pierre. At the time her minicomic Paper Pencil Life was at its fourth issue, and so they went to her website to get the full run of the title up to that point. They were impressed by her art and storytelling, and since then, Derek has made it a point of following Summer’s work. She had told him last year in an email that she planned to have a new graphic memoir coming out from Retrofit in 2018, and at this week’s Small Press Expo that book will officially debut. All the Sad Songs is a moving account of the role of music in Summer’s life, from the creation of mix tapes to her performances as a musician, and how that music is linked to key moments with her various relationships and her growth as an artist. In many ways this book is a work of remembrance, but it’s not soaked in the kind of nostalgia that would come across as sentimental. On the contrary, Summer takes a hard look at herself during those times in her life, bearing herself in ways that, at times, may be a bit uncomfortable. But her story is authentic and speaks from the heart. In this interview, Derek talks with Summer about the genesis of this project, her experiences writing in long-form narrative, the role that music has played in her life, and the potential pitfalls in writing about her past in such an open and honest way. This is an interview that’s been a long time in coming, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Tim Bird

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:23 – Introduction
  • 00:02:29 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:11 – Interview with Tim Bird
  • 01:00:17 – Wrap up
  • 01:00:53 – Contact us

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Mystery and Magic

The Great North Wood, which was just released through Avery Hill Publishing, is Tim Bird’s longest work to date. It’s the story of — or perhaps a better way of putting would be that it’s a history or a meditation on — an area in South London known for its wooded past. This includes areas such as Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Honor Oak, and Sydenham Hill Woods. In fact, as Tim mentions in the interview, Sydenham Hill Woods is really the last vestige of the heavily forested area south of London, and it’s where Tim and his family currently reside. What makes The Great North Wood stand out is Tim Bird’s use of geographic space to tell his story. As he and Derek discuss over the course of their conversation, character is at a minimum in Tim’s work, and he uses location and space to carry his narrative. What’s more, the creator often underscores the mystery and magic that has traditionally been a part of Britain’s wooded areas. Much of Derek’s talk with Tim centers on the new book, but they also discuss his previous comics, such as the various works in his Grey Area series, also published by Avery Hill. These are also largely based on location and geographic space, and Tim goes into detail about his evolution as an artist, working through his Grey Area comics to get to a place where he can more fully explore his surroundings in his latest book.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Keiler Roberts

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:24 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:41 – Interview with Keiler Roberts
  • 01:04:06 – Wrap up
  • 01:04:48 – Contact us

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Exposures 

In 2009 Keiler Roberts began putting out a series of self-published minicomics that she titled Powered Milk. These were brief stories and scenarios where she represented the experiences she had as a mother, wife, and friend. Many of the situations were observational in nature — for example, some of her Powered Milk comics were one-panel expressions of something off-beat and telling that her daughter, Xia, had said — but occasionally she would illustrate longer narratives that concerned her life as a mother. She has gathered these earlier minicomics in collections such as Powered Milk: Collected Stories and Miseryland. Last year, however, Keiler began turning to book-length format and publishing her Powered Milk stories, what she continues to call her work, through Koyama Press. In fact, Sunburning was one of the texts discussed last year during the publisher spotlight on Koyama Press’ spring 2017 releases. And this week we’ll see the release of Keiler’s next book, Chlorine Gardens. It’s a work that’s certainly in the Powered Milk spirit, but this book is notable in that Keiler engages more in long-form storytelling than she does in her previous comics. What’s more, and as Derek discusses with her, Keiler brings a structure to the various stories and observations that is more apparent than in the past. In this interview, Derek talks with Keiler about the evolution of her comics-writing, the role of journaling or diary illustration in her work, the process she undergoes in creating her stories, and the power — as well as the limitations — of exposing herself and her loved ones as subject matters for her narratives. Keiler has been on the podcast before, albeit briefly, during the 2016 Small Press Expo, an event at which she won an Ignatz Award for Best Outstanding Series, but this is a special occasion in that Keiler gets to discuss her work in a longer, more sustained manner.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt

Time Codes:

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Crowdfunded Death

In Crowded (Image Comics), the protagonist Charlie Ellison finds herself the victim of a crowdfunded assassination. That’s right, a crowdfunded assassination. Charlie lives a quiet, normal life, going about her daily routine as anyone would. But she soon finds herself under fire, hunted by all of Los Angeles with her potential killers fueled by crowdfunding platform Reapr. As a result, Charlie hires Vita, one the lowest-rated bodyguards employed by the Dfend, an app allowing you to hire protection. The two then go on a quest to discover who is behind Charlie’s crowdfunded contract, and do so without Charlie falling victim or Vita screwing up.

The first issue of Crowded was released in August, and last month Derek talked with the creators, Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt, immediately before the release date. The second issue will be coming out next week, on September 12. In this interview Derek talks with the creators about the ideas behind this project, the role that social media and technology plays in the series, how the three collaborate on each issue, and what we might expect as the series unfolds.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:34 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:37 – Interview with Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky
  • 01:03:03 – Wrap up
  • 01:03:44 – Contact us

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Transformations

In November of last year readers saw the first issue of what was a brand-new series from Image Comics, Coyotes. It was the latest creation from writer Sean Lewis, who had authored other Image series including The Few and Saints, as well as writing recent titles for Aftershock such as Betrothed and Clankillers. For Coyotes, Sean chose as his illustrator a relative newcomer to comics, Caitlin Yarsky. While this is the first ongoing series where she provides all of the interior art, Caitlin’s work is a standout component and, in many ways, primarily defines the tone and sheer impact of Coyotes. As revealed in the first narrative arc, collected as a trade earlier this spring, Coyotes is about a young girl, name Red, who lives in a southwest border region fighting against a legion of wolves who prey upon women. She’s aided in her fight by the Victorias, an all-female society empowered by an earth goddess and united to fight against the masculinist lycanthropes. The series has a feel of a grand mythology, and it touches upon a variety of topics, including female empowerment, coming of age, and socio-industrial exploitation. In the first issue of the second narrative arc, there is quite a bit of backstory and context to the world Lewis and Yarsky establish in the first four issues, including a history of the Four Grannies of the Earth, the earth goddess Gaia, and the transformative nature of the lycanthropes. In this interview, Derek talks with Cailtin and Sean about their collaborative process, where they are in their story, and what plans they have for the series as a whole.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Another Conversation with Jules Feiffer

Time Codes:

  • 00:24 – Introduction
  • 02:16 – Setup of interview
  • 04:20 – Interview with Jules Feiffer
  • 58:54 – Wrap up
  • 59:26 – Contact us

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Accidental Noir

In 2014 Jules Feiffer published Kill My Mother (Liveright Publishing), a noir crime narrative set in 1933 — and then later moving forward into 1943 — involving not only hard-boiled characters, but also their exploits within the entertainment industry. Feiffer followed that up in 2016 with Cousin Joseph, the second book in what was now projected as a trilogy. That graphic novel is, in many ways, a prequel to the earlier book. Taking place in 1931, readers are introduced to police detective Sam Hannigan, a figure who looms largely over Feiffer’s recent run. His spirit is likewise prevalent in the new graphic novel, The Ghost Script. With this book, Feiffer wraps up his series, which he has called an “accidental noir trilogy.” In this interview, Derek talks with Feiffer about the “accidental” nature of his writing and how the idea for a trilogy came into play. They also discuss his writing style, where, curiously enough, Feiffer sees himself as both instigator and observer to what unfolds under his pen. Over the course of their conversation, Feiffer meditates on his love of noir fiction and films, the challenges he faced in writing this trilogy, and the overriding influences of such legends as Milton Caniff and, especially, Will Eisner. He also discusses the impact of 1950s red scare and the blacklist, which is the temporal setting of The Ghost Script, what that time meant to him as a young writer, and how those politics are not entirely alien to us today. The guys had the pleasure of talking to Feiffer back in 2014 when Kill My Mother was released, so it’s only appropriate that Derek talk with him again upon the completion of his noir trilogy.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Carol Tyler

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:34 – Introduction
  • 00:02:44 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:38 – Interview with Carol Tyler
  • 01:36:12 – Wrap up
  • 01:38:15 – Contact us

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Gear!

On this interview episode, Gene and Derek are excited to have Carol Tyler back on the podcast. Her new book Fab4 Mania has recently been released from Fantagraphics. It’s Carol’s memoir about her time growing up as a Beatles fan, covering the early years of the mop tops and especially The Beatle’s presence in America. As Carol reveals, she was a devotee from the very beginning, watching the group’s legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, their initial tour around the United States immediately after, the media and merchandising circus surrounding it, and the almost never-ending radio presence of four lads. And everything in the book leads up to the crescendo of The Beatles’ appearance at Comiskey Park on August 20, 1965, a concert that Carol excitedly attended. Fab4 Mania also covers the many excitements and challenges Carol faced in displaying her love of The Beatles, especially among friends and when it came to her Catholic school.

In her conversation with Gene and Derek, Carol talks not only the book, but her own personal recollections growing up during that time. They talk music of the time — where Carol disses by comparison other British groups such as Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and The Dave Clark Five — and Carol even DJs and sings for the guys. It’s definitely a memorable interview, one that Derek and Gene will not soon forget.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Nate Powell

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:23 – Introduction
  • 00:02:38 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:02 – Interview with Nate Powell
  • 01:19:33 – Wrap up
  • 01:22:26 – Contact us

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Coming (Back) Again

Paul and Derek are pleased to have Nate Powell back on the show. This time they talk with him about his new book Come Again, just released from Top Shelf Productions. They discuss the genesis of this project, the significance of the story’s setting, the unsteady balance between needs for personal isolation and the importance of community, and the narrative’s forays into the fantastic. Yet they also talk about several of Nate’s other works, including March, Swallow Me Whole, Any Empire, and Sounds of Your Name. But what comes out over the entire course of the conversation is the kind of fun these three guys have talking together. Can’t you just hear it?

Comics Alternative Interviews: Julian Hanshaw

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:18 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:49 – Interview with Julian Hanshaw
  • 01:04:39 – Wrap up
  • 01:05:08 – Contact us

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Checking In

Many U.S. readers were introduced to Julian Hanshaw through his book Tim Ginger, released in 2015 from Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing. It’s the story of man in his later years coming to terms with the decisions he’s made, including his choice to remain childless. As Julian discusses in this interview, the text was largely autobiographical in nature. And the same can said of his new book, Cloud Hotel. The story was inspired by a UFO encounter he had as a young boy and the psychological affect such an experience had on him afterwards. As Julian discloses during his conversation with Derek, Cloud Hotel is the second of what will be a trilogy of autobiographical works, beginning with Tim Ginger. But they also discuss some of his earlier works that may not be familiar to American readers, such as The Art of Pho and I’m Never Coming Back. Julian also talks about his upcoming book from SelfMadeHero, I Feel Machine, a collection of six comics stories that he edited with Kent Able, all by different creators and all focusing on how technology has transformed the way we communicate and frame our culture.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Another Conversation with Luke Healy

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:25 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:11 – Interview with Luke Healy
  • 01:04:50 – Wrap up
  • 01:05:30 – Contact us

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Ego Boost

Luke Healy was first on The Comics Alternative at Small Press Expo in 2016, where he briefly spoke with Derek about his provocative self-published minicomic The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest Study Companion, which was nominated that year for an Ignatz Award. A couple of months later Luke came back on the show, this time for a long and more in-depth interview about his new book at the time, How to Survive in the North, released from Nobrow Press. And now, Luke comes back on podcast to discuss his most recent work. His brand-new book revisits some of his older writings and places them within an entirely new context. Permanent Press has just been released from Avery Hill Publishing, and it’s a mock autobiographical text that explores the world of independent comics creators and the relationship between a cartoonist and his ego. What’s more, the new book incorporates the previously self-published The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest Study Companion, but it does so in a way that brings a fresh perspective to the story and even underscores its experimental nature. In this interview, Derek talks with Luke Healy about the origins of Permanent Press, its highly satirical tone, and the process of looking inside of himself and pulling out a narrative that is not entirely autobiographical, but at the same time, not purely fiction. As you’ll hear, Luke is certainly one of the medium’s most meditative creators.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Sean Karemaker

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:23 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:03 – Interview with Sean Karemaker
  • 01:04:51 – Wrap up
  • 01:05:23 – Contact us

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Panoramic View

Sean Karemaker’s comics are a different kind of reading experience. He illustrates in a highly detailed textured style, and his stories flow in a dreamlike manner, free from the constrictions of sequential paneling. In fact, he creates many of his comics in a scroll-like manner, writing out his narratives across a broad horizontal field, and then later deciding how to break up his illustrations across pages. The result, as we find in his latest book Feast of Fields (Conundrum Press), is story whose unveiling reflects the process of memory, a sort of streaming of experience with a zig-zagging quality between past and present.  In this interview with Sean, Derek talks with his guest about this style of cartooning and especially the genesis of his latest book. It’s largely the story of his mother during her time in a Danish orphanage, but Sean contextualizes her narrative by placing it within his own life experiences and revealing what his mother’s past has meant to him. Derek also talks with Sean about his previous book from Conundrum, The Ghosts We Know, a collection of short pieces that are largely autobiographical in nature and provide a wonderful introduction to Karemaker’s style of comics storytelling.