Episode 296: Reviews of Scratches #2, Now #4, and Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

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Anthologies and a Classic Cop

On this episode Sterg and Derek check out two new anthologies, as well as a recent incarnation of Dick Tracy. They begin with Scratches #2, a comics and art anthology curated by Joost Swarte (and distributed in the Americas by Conundrum Press). They actually spend the majority of the episode discussing this collection, which includes mostly European artists. After that they eagerly jump into the latest issue of Eric Reynold’s Now. This is Fantagraphics’ exciting anthology that began last year. In this issue we see work by, among others, Walt Holcombe, Cynthia Alfonso, Roman Muradov, Tommi Parrish, Theo Ellsworth, Rebecca W. Kirby, and David Alvardo. Finally, they wrap up with Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1, the first in a four-issue limited series. Written by Lee and Michael Allred, and with art by Rich Tommaso, this is (to some degree) an updated handling of Dick Tracy in that the legendary detective is fighting crime in the current day. But although temporal setting is contemporary, the issue still has the feel of a classic comic-strip narrative, including big-presence villains, a detective with many tricks up his sleeve, and a storyline that at times seems outrageous…but in a good way. The Two Guys really hope that this Dick Tracy has a long life well after the limited series.

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.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Max de Radiguès

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:56 – Interview with Max de Radiguès
  • 01:01:11 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:47 – Contact us

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In the Camera Eye

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.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Alison McCreesh

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:49 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:18 – Interview with Alison McCreesh
  • 01:04:09 – Wrap up
  • 01:04:44 – Contact us

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Life North of 60

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.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Zach Worton

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:14 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:00 – Interview with Zach Worton
  • 00:59:46 – Wrap up
  • 01:00:27 – Contact us
  • 01:01:46 – “Gotta Get You Outta My Head,” by Zorton and the Cannibals

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Self-Destruction and Tiki Bars

Zach Worton was last on the podcast about two years ago, around the time of the publication of the second volume in his Charley Butters series, The Search for Charley Butters. On that interview show, Zach discussed the development of his storyline and what to expect in the third and final volume of the series, The Death of Charley Butters. As fate would have it, Zach and his publisher, Conundrum Press, decided to hold off on publishing the third stand-alone installment, and instead, put out the entire series in one complete volume. The result is The Curse of Charley Butters, just released last month, and including the first two Charley Butter stories and what would have been the third. In fact, this complete collection reads as a tight, cohesive narrative, and getting all of the Charley Butters installments in one nice volume is definitely the way to read this story. In this interview Derek talks with Zach about the genesis of his project, the challenges involved in its serialization, the stark nature of the storytelling, and the experience of taking his protagonist down an ever-darkening downward spiral. Zach also discusses his other new work, The Weird World of Lagoola Gardner, a magazine-sized comic whose tone is completely different from Charley Butters, looser, more comedic, and reminiscent of the kind of free-wheeling garage band- and tiki-influenced publications of the late 1960s.

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 Interviews: Joe Ollmann

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Of Human Bondage

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:04:00 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:20 – Interview with Joe Ollmann
  • 01:21:27 – Wrap up
  • 01:22:58 – Contact us

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On this interview episode, Andy and Derek talk with Doug Wright Award-winner Joe Ollmann, whose new book, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, comes out this week from Drawn and Quarterly. Joe starts off by introducing William Seabrook and his writings, since this is a historical literary figure that most listeners have probably never heard of before. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time discussing the ups and downs of Seabrook’s career and speculating on why he’s not more notable than he is. With a background in yellow journalism, Seabrook became a famed adventurer and travel writer who befriended a who’s who of early twentieth-century literati, including Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, Sinclair Lewis, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Aleister Crowley. As Joe points out, he was famously known at the time, not only as a writer, but as a cultural progressive, a cannibal, a bondage enthusiast, and the man who popularized zombies. What fascinates Ollmann most about this colorful figure is Seabrook’s upfront attitudes about himself, refusing to hide the more salacious sides of his personality. At the same time, this cavalier manner may have contributed to his notorious alcoholism, tragically revealed in his memoir, Asylum, and a condition that stifled his career and helped lead to his eventual death. The guys have a great time talking with Joe about his 10+ years in researching and writing this biography, the differences between writing this book and his previous ones (all fictions), and the dynamics of visually narrating the life of such a controversial and conflicted character.

Joe is also writing about his experiences with The Abominable Mr. Seabrook on The Paris Review!

And read Derek’s previous interview with Joe Ollmann for The Comics Alternative blog.

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Comics Alternative Interviews: Zach Worton

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Dark Places

Worton-CharleyButters

In this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s interview series, Derek talks with Zach Worton about his new book, The Search for Charley Butters, just out from Conundrum Press. This is the second in a planned trilogy, and one beginning with last year’s The Disappearance of Charley Butters. As Zach describes it, this is a black comedy about depression and the way this condition manifests itself in isolation, addiction, and failed friendships. The narrative runs along two parallel tracks, one about the titular character, a painter from the 1950s who becomes an eccentric recluse, and the other about the present-day Travis who becomes obsessed with Butters’s story as revealed in his diaries. This obsession begins to break down the relationships in Travis’s life, and as the story unfolds he finds himself going to a personal dark place that is not entirely dissimilar from that the artist’s. Zach talks with Derek about origins of this project, his reasons for serializing it over three volumes, and his rough plans for wrapping it up with next year’s The Death of Charley Butters.

The guys also discuss Zach’s first book, The Klondike, a completely different kind of narrative that episodically chronicles the gold rush that shook the Yukon during the last part of the nineteenth century. Zach shares his experiences researching the book and how it helped define him, for awhile at least, as a cartoonist of Canadian history and personages (similar to the way people read David Collier or how some may have defined Chester Brown after Louis Riel). They also discuss Zach’s other current project, The Weird World of Lagoola Gardner (a horror-inspired tale that will be released around Halloween), his love of old drive-in movie theaters, and his band, Zorton and the Cannibals. And, interestingly enough, it’s with a group of musicians that the Charley Butters trilogy begins!

Find out more about this creator at Zach Worton’s Crust Club!

CharleyButters-interior

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Comics Alternative, Episode 136: A Publisher Spotlight on Conundrum Press

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Puzzling Out Conundrum

ConundrumPress

This week on The Comics Alternative, the Two Guys with PhDs are back with another Publisher Spotlight episode, this time focusing on the spring 2015 releases from Conundrum Press. They begin the show by doing something they’ve never done before: interviewing the publisher of the press they’re about to spotlight. Derek talks with Andy Brown briefly about his founding of Conundrum, its evolution into a comics-only publisher, the many roles he plays at the press, the kind of creators he works with, and a summary of the spring releases and beyond. After ConundrumPressLogothat, the guys plunge into a discussion of the five new releases, beginning with Zach Worton’s The Disappearance of Charley Butters. This is the first of a trilogy, centering on the discovery of an abandoned shack and the mystery surrounding its former occupant, a solitary artist. As some of the characters learn more about this missing figure, they begin to see themselves and their relationships more clearly. Next, Derek and Andy W. turn to Max de Radiguès’s Moose. Despite the guys’ (embarrasing) inability to correctly pronounce the Belgium artist’s name, they are nonetheless able to grasp the poignancy of his narrative. This is a story about bullying, yet one with dark ethical implications and with no easy answers. After that, the guys turn to Kat Verhoeven’s Towerkind. This minicomic-sized book is one of Andy’s favorites of the week, and its simple art masks a profound and unsettling tone. Set in Toronto’s St. James Town, a densely populated neighborhood of high-rise apartments, the book follows the uncanny interactions of a group of kids with ominous forebodings. The next book, The Adventures of Drippy the Newsboy, Vol. 1: Drippy’s Mama, is arguably the most curious of Conundrum’s seasonal releases. In it, Vancouver artist and animator Julian Lawrence brings to full story his popular figure from the Drippy Gazette, a free local monthly that Lawrence co-created and edits, but does so within the context of Stephen Crane’s 1896 novel, George’s Mother. This is the first of three such Drippy books, each based on a Crane narrative (as Andy Brown reveals, the second will reference The Red Badge of Courage). Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with Dakota McFadzean’s Don’t Get Eaten by Anything: A Collection of “The Dailies” 2011-2013. This is an impressive hardbound collection of McFadzean’s The Dailies webcomic that he began back in January 2010 and continues to this day. The strips vary in tone from the autobiographical — especially the early ones — to the surreal. Derek is especially excited to discuss this book, since he interviewed Dakota for the podcast last year, who at the time mentioned the upcoming release. For fans of McFadzean’s art and his offbeat sense of humor, this is wonderful companion tome to read along with 2013’s Other Stories and the Horse You Rode in On. And it’s just one of the the many great books that Conundrum Press continues to put out. This is definitely a publisher worth following!

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A big THANKS to Andy Brown for helping to make this show possible.
And be sure to check out the Conundrum Press website for a full range of their publications!

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