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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.