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 Episode 133: A Publisher Spotlight on Koyama Press

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Life Stories, Evil Philosophers, and Butts with Eyes

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Occasionally, Derek and Andy like to devote an episode to a particular publisher, looking at the recent or seasonal releases and providing a snapshot of the kind of books they publish. So for this week, the Two Guys discuss the spring publications from Koyama Press, a Toronto-based small press founded in 2007 by Annie Koyama. This is a publisher that the guys deeply appreciate but have discussed little on the show. (They reviewed Renee French’s Baby Bjornstrand in November of last year, and there have been a few reviews of Koyama books on the blog.) The conversation begins with Alex Schubert’s Blobby Boys 2, a minimalist collection of stories with a punk aesthetic and a great sense of humor. This is a follow up to the first Blobby Boys book, which came out in fall of 2013. The guys discuss the book’s wild and violent comedy, and while they enjoy the strips devoted to the titular characters, they particularly like the two stories focusing on Fashion Cat, a hip, powerful, yet ill-fated celebrity of the fashion world.  KoyamaPressLogo1After that, Andy and Derek look at Ginette Lapalme’s Confetti. This is not really comic — although there is a little sequential narrative in the opening pages of the book — but more of an art book. Lapalme’s illustrations, paintings, and object art are featured throughout, and the guys try to find several iconic themes that link the pieces together, such as melting heads, bodily fluids, butts with eyes on them, and the obvious prevalence of cats. Next, they turn to an unequivocal comic, A. Degen’s Mighty Star and the Castle of the Cancatervater. This is special kind of superhero story, one that is largely silent. (There is text that introduces each chapter’s dramatic personae, and there are vague sounds, represented by Ns and Hs, that are sprinkled throughout.) Degen’s unique take on the hero or adventure genres is both compelling and metaphorical. But when it comes to thought-provoking texts, there is perhaps no book discussed this week more philosophical than Dustin Harbin’s Diary Comics. This project began as an online illustrated journal that Harbin kept beginning in January 2010, where he would try to represent each of his days with at least one comics panel. He continued this experiment off-and-on until September 2012, eventually releasing hardcopy issues of this work in four short installments. Now, all of those life stories are collected in a single volume, and one of the pleasures of reading Diary Comics is seeing the development of Harbin as an writer and how his art, as well as his understanding of himself as an artist, progresses over time. Indeed, the highlight of the text is its opening and closing sections, where Harbin introduces his project and provides a interpretive context that is much more than mere navel gazing. This is the kind of meticulously crafted and experimental work, much like that other books discussed on the episode, that represents Koyama’s mission and deserves far more attention from comics readers.

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A big THANKS to Ed Kanerva for helping to make this show possible.
And be sure to check out the Koyama Press website, where you can see cool caricatures of Annie Koyama!

 

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