Comics Alternative, Episode 257: A Publisher Spotlight on Conundrum Press

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Memoirs, Nightmares, and Bananas

This week on The Comics Alternative Andy and Derek return to one of their favorite publishers, Conundrum Press, for their next publisher spotlight. They had previously released a similar episode on Conundrum two and a half years ago, and they wanted to do so again with their fall 2017 releases. The six titles under discussion vary in style and topic, although the first three books the guys review are all memoirs: Lorina Mapa’s Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me, Michael Nybrandt and Thomas Mikkelsen’s Dreams in Thin Air, and David Collier’s Morton: A Cross-Country Rail Journey. After that they turn to James Cadelli and his first graphic novel, Getting Out of Hope, and then the surreal story collection Mister Morgen by Croatian poster artist Igor Hofbauer. Finally, Andy and Derek conclude with one of their favorite of the fall releases, The Collected Neil the Horse, by Arn Saba (now Katherine Collins). This is a classic black-and-white comic from the early 1980s that definitely deserves this kind of attention.

The closing music of this episode, in fact, is created by Collins for Neil the Horse!

Comics Alternative, Episode 250: Reviews of The Death of Stalin, Moonstruck #1, and Kros: Hallowed Ground

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Monsters…or Others

This week on The Comics Alternative‘s regular review show, the Two Guys discuss three recent titles, all of which involve monsters….or outsiders, depending on your perspective. They begin with The Death of Stalin, written by Fabien Nury and with art by Thierry Robin (Titan Comics). This is a translation of a French text that is soon to be released as a major motion picture in the UK, and then eventually coming to the US. It’s the semi-historical account of the death of Joseph Stalin and the unusual circumstances surrounding that event. As Andy and Derek point out, Nury’s dark sense of humor is apparent throughout, while Robin’s art captures the grittiness of the context.

Next, the guys move on to Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, and Kate Leth’s Moonstruck #1 (Image Comics). The story takes place in an urban setting, with young people going about their daily, and sometimes wacky, lives…sort of like something out of Seinfeld or Friends. However, what marks this series is its fantastical nature: everyone is a mythical figure of some sort. While Leth provides a bit of the art, the lion’s share goes to newcomer Shae Beagle, which is a stand out. And although both guys had wondered when they read the original solicit if this series may be a bit too “cute,” they find Ellis’s story mature in a way they hadn’t expected.

Finally, Andy and Derek do something they haven’t really done before: review a title that is only available through a Kickerstarter campaign. Tom Mandrake and John Ostrander’s Kros: Hallowed Ground takes place during the horrific yet decisive Battle of Gettysburg, but it’s more than just a war story. This is a landscape populated by vampires. And what better feeding ground for bloodsuckers than this battlefield? On it’s own, this narrative leaves open a few questions, but the guys sense that this is the first in a series of Kros tales that will flesh out a larger storyworld. They hope that this, as well as other future installments, might find its way to print in the future.

Comics Alternative, Episode 249: Reviews of Reich, The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1, and Time and Vine #1

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Sexual Healing

This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at three very different titles. They begin with Elijah Brubaker’s Reich, a twelve-issue biography published by Sparkplug Comics and distributed through Alternative Comics. The series reveals the life of Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian-American psychoanalyst known for his influential work in character analysis, his advocacy of orgastic potency, and, more controversially, his theories surrounding orgonomy. After that they discuss The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1 (Vertigo Comics). Written by John Ridley with art by George Jeanty, this is a sequel to their eight-issue Wildstorm series that came out in 2008. Then Andy and Derek wrap things up with Time and Vine #1 (IDW Publishing), Thom Zahler’s followup to his 2015 miniseries Long Distance. The guys note that this latest title bears all the markings of Zahler’s previous work, including Love and Capes: engaging art, impressive dialogue, and nuanced character interaction that is both romantic and witty.

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Gabrielle Bell

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:21 – Interview with Gabrielle Bell
  • 01:00:03 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:21 – Contact us

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“The anxiety and the happiness are just so close together”

On this interview episode Andy and Derek are pleased to have as their guest Gabrielle Bell. Her latest book, Everything Is Flammable, came out recently from Uncivilized Books. The guys talk with Gabrielle extensively about the idea for this book — described as her first long-form graphic memoir — and how it evolved from her work on short diary pieces. What binds most of the entries in Everything Is Flammable are her experiences with her mother after her northern California house was destroyed in a fire. The guys also ask her about her annual event, the July diary, a project in which she was in the middle of at the time of this recording. Gabrielle discusses both the pleasures and the struggles of completing her self-imposed month-long project and how this year’s daily stories surround her time house- and pet-sitting for her friend and publisher, Tom Kaczynski. Along the way, Gabrielle reveals her various thoughts on being a semi-autobiographical cartoonist, the uncertainties of including friends and family members in her comics, the responsibilities she feels in those representations, and the very problem of trying to pigeonhole her work within a particular genre or form.

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: The Hernandez Brothers Panel at HeroesCon 2017

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:22 – Setup of the recording
  • 00:04:30 – The Hernandez brothers panel at HeroesCon
  • 01:08:05 – Wrap up
  • 01:09:46 – Contact us

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A Big Deal

At this year’s HeroesCon, Andy and Derek moderated a couple of panels, one of which was entirely devoted to the Hernandez brothers, Gilbert and Jaime. In this on-location episode, you’ll hear the Two Guys talking with the brothers about their new magazine-sized Love and Rockets series, the logistics of going from an annual to a quarterly, the experiences of continuity and 35+ years of character development, their efforts (especially Gilbert’s) in producing standalone works outside of any serialized format, their historical places within the larger context of non-mainstream comics, and the brothers’ thoughts on the current state of the medium.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Denis Kitchen

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:42 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:01 – Interview with Denis Kitchen
  • 01:09:50 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:09 – Contact us

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Working on (and with) the Masters

Andy and Derek are happy to have Denis Kitchen back on The Comics Alternative. On his previous appearance surrounded Will Eisner Week 2015, but this time, he discusses the Will Eisner centennial as well as his work on the Essential Kurtzman volumes. Earlier this year Dark Horse Books, through the Kitchen Sink Books imprint, published Will Eisner: The Centennial Celebration: 1917-2017, a dual English-French album based on recent exhibitions at Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Denis served as one of the curators of those exhibits, as well as one of the authors of the catalogue. He talks with the guys about his experiences helping to pull everything together for the exhibitions and working with John Lind (his Kitchen Sink Books colleague) on the centennial volume. Derek and Andy also ask him about his work on the Essential Kurtzman library, also published through Dark Horse and its Kitchen Sink Books imprint. They get the lowdown on the first two works in the series, Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book and Trump: The Complete Collection, as well as what we might expect in future volumes. The Two Guys also ask Denis about future projects from him, as not only an editor, but as an artist. He’s a little close-to-the-vest with the specifics, but nonetheless suggests that important news is to come.

Denis Kitchen – “Day I Met Will Eisner” (2005)

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 248: Reviews of Outburst, Steam Clean, and Resist! Vol. 2

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“Smell my book. Feel bad.”

On this week’s episode, the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at there new releases…and even smell them. They begin with Pieter Coudyzer’s Outburst (SelfMadeHero), a surreal meditation on creative expression and not fitting in. The narrative can even be called an example of magical realism (and the guys don’t apply that term indiscriminately), where the natural world not only becomes a refuge from human interaction, but also literally infiltrates and consumes the marginalized. Next they discuss a recent release from one of their favorite publishers, Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics. Laura Ķeniņš’s Steam Clean is a short yet poignant look at the challenges women and gender non-binary individuals face in their day-to-day lives. The story takes place at a women’s sauna party in some Scandinavian country, and its varied attendees use this gathering to explore their relationships and “sweat out” their frustrations. Finally, Andy and Derek wrap up with an in-depth look at the second volume of the freebie newspaper Resist! Edited by Françoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman, this latest release is similar to the first — which the guys reviewed earlier this year — and includes contributions from well-established as well as younger and first-time artists. Familiar names that the guys discuss include Roz Chast, Cathy Malkasian, Miss Lasko-Gross, Carol Lay, Kristen Radtke, Pénélope Bagieu, and Glynnis Fawkes, but they are equally impressed with artists and cartoonists new to them. These include Palmer Frankel’s “Dickface” series of paintings, Ana Christine’s “Persistence,” and a unique call-to-action from an anonymous contributor working for a Catholic hospital.

A special thanks to Red Pegasus Comics in Dallas, TX, for providing the Two Guys with their copies of Resist! Vol. 2!

Comics Alternative, Episode 247: The July Previews Catalog

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No Keanu. No Rock.

It’s the first week of the month, so that must mean that it’s time once again for Andy and Derek to check out the latest Previews catalog. As they go through the July solicitations, they highlight a variety of upcoming titles from publishers such as:

 

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 246: Reviews of Greek Diary, Paper Pencil Life, and KatZine

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:29 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Listener messages!
  • 00:08:24 – HeroesCon, podcast fans, and self-published comics
  • 00:14:58 – Greek Diary
  • 00:37:36 – Paper Pencil Life
  • 00:59:42 – KatZine
  • 01:16:04 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:17 – Contact us

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DIY

This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek do something they’ve never done before on the podcast: discuss only self-published titles. They got the idea for this special episode from one of the creators they look at, Glynnis Fawkes, when she was kind enough to send them copies of her latest book. So after hearing from her, Derek and Andy thought, “Why not devote an entire episode to creators like Glynnis?”

Appropriately enough, they begin with Fawkes’s book, Greek Diary, which won the 2017 MoCCAfest Award of Excellence. This is an account of the author’s experiences in Greece during June and early July 2016. Fawkes devoted the first part of her diary to her work as an archeological illustrator, but the majority of the text covers the time that her family joined her for vacation after her professional obligations. As the Two Guys reveal, this part of Greek Diary is an entertaining mix between a travelogue and a journal of familial “challenges.” (If you’ve ever traveled with small children, you certainly know what that means.)

Next, they discuss the first four issues of Summer Pierre’s Pencil Paper Life. This is Pierre’s ongoing collection of diary comics that she began keeping back in 2013. Each issue is a series of the creator’s occasional observations, reflections, and personal accounts that mostly follow a standard nine-panel grid. These comics explore her life as an artist, memories linked to pop-cultural signposts, her efforts in negotiating varying social terrains, and especially her joys — as well as her struggles — in being a mother.

Finally, the guys wrap up with Katriona Chapman’s KatZine. At the time of the recording there are so far seven issues that have been released, and this title stands out from Fawkes’s and Pierre’s in several ways. First, KatZine is more of a single-author anthology, with there being a variety of entries, including several regular features (including “Sergio Talk!,” “Local Business,” “Featured Plant,” and “Fears and Loves”). It’s also different in that the comic is a mix between straight-out comics and prose-heavy pieces. In other words, this is a zine in the more traditional sense. But KatZine also stands in contrast to Greek Diary and Paper Pencil Life in that it’s not entirely autobiographically based. There are a few pieces collected among the seven issues that are clearly fictional in nature. What’s more, in some of her more recent issues Chapman expresses her interests in melding life writing with fiction, an impulse that she is apparently carrying into her first graphic novel.

Please help support these independent creators by visiting their websites and buying their comics:

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 245: Live at HeroesCon 2017

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On the Scene

HeroesCon-ComAlt

Last weekend was HeroesCon, and as they have for the past few years, Andy and Derek are on the scene in Artists Alley reporting the event from the floor. On this episode, you’ll hear the Two Guys sharing their varied experiences at the con. Among other topics they discuss the vendors they visited and the comics they were able to find, their attempts to interview creators at their tables, the two high-powered panels they moderated, the various artists they had signing their comics, the tone of this year’s crowd, Derek’s cool Space Babes shirt (design by Beto), the uncertainty of their table location, and their Saturday night dinner with Gilbert Hernandez’s family. And both Derek and Andy are most thankful for the various fans who stopped by their table to say “Hello!” and tell them that they’re avid listeners.

Much thanks to Daniel Yezbick for providing the pictures of the Two Guys in action!

 

 

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at HeroesCon 2017, Pt. 2

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More Heroes Talk

In the second of two on-location interview episodes recorded at this year’s HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, Derek talks with Fabian Rangel, Jr. (author of Tarantula), Charles Forsman (Slasher), Chris Sheridan (Motorcycle Samurai), Shawn Pryor (Cash and Carrie), and Alison Sampson (Winnebago Graveyard), and Andy and Derek speak with Darren Neely (Chase Van Bolt). Fun stuff!

Stay tuned over the next week for more HeroesCon episodes!

 

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 243: The June Previews Catalog

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Ben Affleck and Jason Lee

The Two Guys with PhDs, AKA “Ben” and “Jason,” are back with another Previews episode. And for the month of June, there’s a lot that Andy and Derek want to highlight. Among the many upcoming titles they discuss are:

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 242: A Discussion of the 2017 Eisner Award Nominations

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The Meryl Streep of Comics

EisnerNominee-banner

Earlier this month the nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards were announced at the Comic-Con International website, and as Andy and Derek like to do every year, they’re devoting a full episode of The Comics Alternative to a discussion of the nominations. On this week’s show, the Two Guys give their impressions of the various nominees, both as a whole and on a category-by-category basis, making observations and trying to understand any trends underlying this year’s selections. However, Derek and Andy resist the urge to play armchair quarterbacks, so they don’t second-guess the six-member panel of judges or focus on what they would have chosen if they had been on the selection committee. As diligent comics scholars, they judicial and discerning in their commentary. At the same time, they don’t shy away from pointing out a few inconsistencies and a few head-scratchers when trying to make sense of this year’s nominations.

Comics Alternative, Episode 240: A Publisher Spotlight on Koyama Press

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Holy Balls!

For this week’s review episode the Two Guys with PhDs turn a critical spotlight on Koyama Press and its spring 2017 releases. They devoted an entire episode to Koyama a couple of years ago, but this season there are just so many great titles coming out from the press that the guys wanted to look at all of their releases and not just two or three scheduled across several weeks. First, though, they share a brief conversation with the press’ founder and publisher, Annie Koyama, who provides an overview and history of the Canadian publishing house.

Then the guys start discussing the new releases, beginning with Eleanor Davis’s You & a Bike & a Road, a diary comic of her time biking from Arizona to Georgia and the various experiences and encounters she had along the way. Reading this book has even gotten Derek back exercising on his bike, although Andy wasn’t inspired in quite the same way. After that they look at another autobiographical work in diary form, Keiler Roberts’s Sunburning. The Two Guys have discussed Roberts’s work on the podcast previously, but this is the first time the both of them have focused on one of her entire books, her first Koyama Press release.

Next, they turn to Crawl Space, the latest from Koyama creator Jesse Jacobs. This is a visually unique work, combining Jacobs’s geometric abstractions with a straightforward, yet self-reflexibly revealing, storyline. Another experimental work is Eric Kostiuk Williams’s Condo Heartbreak Disco. At the center of this narrative are Komio and The Willendorf Braid, two figures whose stories are part of Williams’s Hungry Bottom Comics series, of which neither of the guys are familiar (unfortunately).

Then it’s on to Volcano Trash, the follow up to Ben Sears’s Night Air which was leased last year. This all-age adventure featuring Plus Man and Hank is one of the highlights of the week, and the guys hope Sears continues developing this series. And finally, Andy and Derek wrap up with Jane Mai and An Nguyen’s hybrid text, So Pretty/Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture. This is a fascinating exploration of a cultural trend that neither of the guys really knew much about — at least in detail — and one that caters to their scholarly sensibilities.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:30 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:47 – Interview with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
  • 01:10:00 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:29 – Contact us

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Yeggs

For this interview episode, the Two Guys with PhDs talk with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the creators behind The Damned, from Oni Press. This is a series with some history, beginning back in 2006 with the five-issues run, “Three Days Dead,” and then the three-issue miniseries from 2008, “Prodigal Sons.” Soon after that, Cullen and Brian began The Sixth Gun, but now that that long-running series is behind them, they decided to revisit and revitalize their first creative project together. Over the course of their conversation, Cullen and Brian talk about their efforts to reprint the original comics in color — and with the help of the new series’ colorist, Bill Crabtree — the impetus behind the new on-going series, their work together on The Sixth Gun, and their process of collaboration on The Damned. Andy and Derek also ask them about some of their other projects, including Cullen’s Harrow County (with Tyler Crook) and Brian’s Poppy! and the Lost Lagoon (with Matt Kindt).