Derek talks with Bill Kartalopoulos and Ben Katchor about the 2017 volume of The Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). They are, respectively, the general editor of the series and last year’s guest editor. Paul and Derek had wanted to interview the two back in December, but due to life complications, they weren’t able to have them on the show. And although Paul wasn’t able to join in on this interview, he was with everyone in spirit. So better late than never, Derek speaks with Ben and Bill about the process of their collaboration, the challenges that they faced in collecting potential material, Ben’s choices in structuring and populating the 2017 volume, the ways in which current politics couldn’t help but find their way into the text, and the questions both editors faced with the very concept of “best comics.”
Box Brown returns to The Comics Alternative, this time discussing his new book Is This Guy for Real?: The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, just out this week from First Second. Similar to his previous Andre the Giant, this is a graphic biography of a colorful celebrity with a complicated life story…and involving wrestling. Box talks with Derek about his ideas for beginning this project, his appreciation of stand-up comedy, the challenges he faced in constructing Kaufman’s story, and how his emphases are notably different from those of Miloš Forman’s 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. And since both Box and Derek are big Andy Kaufman fans, there’s a lot of nerding out and reminiscing over the comedian’s many TV appearances, many of which can be found on YouTube. So put on your wrestling tights, slip into that sequin high-collar Elvis jacket, and get ready to engage with this friendly, friendly world.
Derek talks with Dave Calver about his new book Limbo Lounge. This is his first graphic novel, and it’s a first for IDW Publishing, a joint effort between two of its imprints, Yoe Books and Top Shelf Productions. Over the course of their conversation, the two discuss the origins of this project, the author’s effective use of coloring as a narrative tool, the surreal and tonally ambiguous nature of the work, how Dave’s background as an illustrator informed his storytelling, and where his efforts, largely inspired by Limbo Lounge, are taking him now.
On this interview episode Derek has as his guest Clifford V. Johnson. He is a professor of physics at the University of Southern California, and his new book The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe was released last fall by the MIT Press. Clifford talks with Derek about the genesis of this project, his choice of the dialogue form in structuring his text, and the challenges — as well as the appropriateness — of representing complex scientific concepts through comics. The Dialogues is a fascinating work of ideas, one that could even be categorized as a graphic cycle, and a book that can be appreciated by scientists and laypeople alike. Science!
Be sure to check out Prof. Johnson’s blog, Asymptotia, for his ongoing thoughts on science in our contemporary culture.
Paul and Derek are excited to have Karen Berger on The Comics Alternative. The first release from her new Dark Horse Comics imprint, Berger Books, occurs next week, and the guys talk with Karen on the cusp of this event. The Two Guys ask their guest about the genesis of Berger Books as well as her efforts in launching new titles — such as Hungry Ghosts, Incognegro: Rennaisance, Mata Hari, and The Seeds — and securing impressive talent. But they also talk with Karen about her time working at DC Comics and establishing the industry-defining Vertigo brand. This is a fun and informative interview, and Karen Berger is one of the most engaging and pleasant guests the Two Guys have ever had on the podcast.
On this interview episode, Derek is pleased to have as his guest one of his favorite creators, Seth. His latest volume of Palookaville was published last year by Drawn and Quarterly, and while every release of Seth’s signature series is worth noting, this one is particularly significant. It wraps up his “Clyde Fans” storyline, one he began in 1997 in Palookaville #10. Derek asks Seth about the process of undertaking this ongoing narrative and the considerations of sustaining it for twenty years. They also discuss the autobiographical “Nothing Lasts,” a series that Seth began in volume 21 of Palookaville. Much of the conversation concerns Seth’s autobiographical storytelling, or his faux-autobiographical comics (in the case of It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken), and the ways in which the past informs his sense of place and identity. Indeed, memory is a major theme in Seth’s stories, and the two spend a good deal of time talking about it as a defining feature of his comics. But while much of the discussion centers on the most recent volume of Palookaville, Derek also asks his guest about the general trajectory of his career. They talk about his sketchbook comics, such as Wimbledon Green and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, his evolving illustration style, the creation of Dominion, the melancholy George Sprott: 1894-1975,his rubber stamp diary, his life-defining relationships with Chester Brown and Joe Matt, his design and illustration work for Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts series and Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions books, his plans for future issues of Palookaville, and his wife’s business, Crown Barber Shop.
On this episode of the interview series, Derek talks with W. Maxwell Prince and Martín Morazzo about their new series from Image Comics, Ice Cream Man. The first issue comes out on January 17, and Derek asks his guests about the genesis of this project and what to expect in its debut. As Will and Martín reveal, each issue of Ice Cream Man is a stand-alone story, with every release serving as a viable jumping on point into their uncanny world. In fact, both creators liken the title to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a series of stories that aren’t connected one to the other, but linked through tone and narration. What binds the individual issues together will be the ice cream man himself, peddling his frozen treats in a small suburban community and witness to — or instigator of? — various macabre events that turns lives upside down. The series’ inaugural issue revolves around a deadly Brazilian spider, a young boy forced to live on his own, and a police detective whose professional ennui is violently shaken. This promises to be a very different kind of comic-book series, one that may not be as soft and creamy as its title suggests.
On this interview episode Derek talks with Tim Lane about his series Happy Hour in America, Vol. 2, the first issue of which is just being released from Fantagraphics Books. This isn’t the first time that Tim has been interviewed on The Comics Alternative. In January 2015, Derek published on the blog a text-based conversation with him that he had conducted via email. That was a insightful and substantive interview, but the current one goes even further, allowing Tim not only to comment on his current work, but to delve into a variety of other topics, such as the business side of the medium, the state of comic books as a publishing platform, and matters of comics pedagogy. But the core of the conversation concerns Tim’s latest efforts in this new volume of Happy Hour in America, his fascination with twentieth-century Americana, his previous collections — Abandoned Cars and The Lonesome Go — and the interpretive biography he currently has underway, Just Like Steve McQueen. This is an unusually long interview, running just over two hours, but it’s an engaging conversation that will introduce you to Tim’s “Great American Mythological Drama.”
On this interview episode, Derek talks with Mitch Maglio about his new book, Fiction House: From Pulps to Panels, from Jungles to Space, just out from IDW/Yoe Books. Mitch is an aficionado on Fiction House (as well as on the jungle girl genre), so he’s the perfect writer/collector to discuss this historic publisher. He talks with Derek about the origins of Fiction House, its colorful founder, the publisher’s major role in the pulps, its mostly forgotten stature during the Golden Age, the many legends who worked as writers and artists on their many publications, its ironic position concerning female empowerment, and the various titles for which it was known, including Jumbo Comics, Fight Comics, Wings Comics, and of course Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.
Sean joins Derek to interview a creative team that the two have discussed previously, Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus. Last year the guys reviewed Ryan and Klaus’s webcomic Turncoat(now available in softcover), but this time they talk with the creators about a new print publication, their Image Comics limited series Void Trip. The first of its five issues comes out this week, and the Two Guys talk with Ryan and Klaus about the genesis of this project, the psychedelic nature of the story, the dynamics of their collaboration, and their philosophies on self-contained and tightly woven narratives. They also talk with the creative duo about their previous work together, Turncoat, and any potential future plans to utilize the webcomics platform.
On this interview episode, Derek talks with Mark Voger about his latest work, Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture. The book comes out this week from TwoMorrows Publishing, and during their conversation Mark discusses the roots of groovy culture that reach back to early twentieth-century modernism and jazz, and are even apparent in discoveries during nineteenth century. But most of the interview is spent talking about the flowering, so to speak, of this cultural trend from the mid-1960s into the early 1970s. Obviously Derek asks Mark about the comics of the time — Mike Sekowsky’s new Wonder Woman, Steve Ditko’s Hawk and Dove, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Archie Comics’ Josie, and the underground comix of R. Crumb, Trina Robbins, Jay Lynch, Kim Deitch, and Denis Kitchen — but they also spend a lot of time discussing “groovy culture” in music, television, film, fashion, and art. Mark also briefly covers his previous book, Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America 1957-1972, and the creative transition he made from the ghoulish to the psychedelic. These were the concurrent popular movements that largely defined his young life.
Derek is pleased to have Joseph Remnant on the podcast. His new book, Cartoon Clouds, was released last month from Fantagraphics. This is a graphic novel in the truest sense, a work of fiction that explores the nuances of relationships, defining yourself, and growing apart from those with whom you were once close. As Joseph reveals, this is a narrative that began in serial installments on a website he once maintained with Noah Van Sciver, but it soon developed into something more complex and ambitious. Most of the interview is devoted to Cartoon Clouds, but Derek also asks his guest about his comic-book series Blindspot and his illustration work with Harvey Pekar. Along the way Joseph talks about his contribution in the upcoming second issue of Now, and he hints at some of the new work he currently has underway.
Joseph will be at CAB, Comic Arts Brooklyn, this coming weekend. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and tell him hello and that you heard him on The Comics Alternative!
On this interview episode, Derek talks with Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle on the publication of their new book, I, Parrot (Black Balloon-Catapult). This is a graphic novel in the truest sense, a work of fiction, about a middle-aged woman who’s prone to bad luck. She stumbles upon a bird-sitting job, caring for an aviary of exotic, rare, and very expensive parrots, and despite the help of her boyfriend and her young son, falls prey to a series of misfortunes that lead to unintended, yet not entirely tragic, consequences. Both Deb and Beth share their experiences working together on this project, the collaborative rhythm they established, and how their previous creations reflect on this graphic novel. This is Deb’s first work in comics, having previously established a career as a writer of prose fiction. And while Beth’s experiences in comics art is more extensive, this is her first effort in “adult” long-form graphic narrative. Derek also asks his guests about their other current projects and any possible plans to collaborate on future projects.
On this interview episode, Paul and Derek talk with Katie Green about her recent graphic memoir Lighter Than My Shadow, released last month from Lion Forge’s Roar imprint. The Two Guys reviewed the book a couple of weeks ago, but they were so moved by Green’s story that they wanted to have her on the podcast to talk about her work. This insightful conversation adds more context and texture to Katie’s memoir, and she shares her struggles in narrating her various traumatic experiences, her art background and its translation into memoir comics, and her desires to reach others, specifically younger readers, who may similarly suffer from eating disorders and sexual abuse.