Comics Alternative Interviews: Julia Wertz

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:39 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:29 – Interview with Julia Wertz
  • 01:10:16 – Wrap up
  • 01:12:40 – Contact us

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Screw Cronuts!

On this interview episode, Paul and Derek are pleased to have Julia Wertz on the podcast. Her new book, Tenements, Towers and Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, came out earlier this month from Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers. As the subtitle suggests, this is a different kind of history, a guide to the Big Apple’s present as well as its past, investigating its architecture, its businesses, its facades, its entertainment venues, and the many colorful figures who have populated its boroughs. The guys talk with Julia about how different this book is from her previous works — e.g., Drinking at the MoviesThe Infinite Wait and Other StoriesFart Party — which are primarily autobiographical. For this project, the author considered herself an urban explorer, forgoing the inward gaze and focusing instead on the city that she called home between 2007 and 2016. Tenements, Towers and Trash includes a variety of stories that compose its past, and punctuating the text is a series of before-and-after illustrations of storefronts and city blocks that underscore New York’s ever-changing nature. This isn’t a nostalgic look back at what once had been, but a chronicle of a dynamic urban space in the process of becoming. And of course, the book has more than its share of Julia’s poignant, even laugh-out-loud, humor.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of Volcano Trash and Real Friends

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Time Codes:

  • 01:22 – Introduction
  • 03:19 – Setup of the episode
  • 04:00 – Volcano Trash
  • 23:10 – Real Friends
  • 48:57 – Wrap up
  • 50:00 – Contact us

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Friendships

For the May Young Readers show, Paul and Gwen discuss two highly anticipated graphic novels: Ben Sears’s Volcano Trash (Koyama Press) and Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends (First Second). While one text is an action adventure science fiction fantasy and the other is a memoir, both books touch upon the importance that relationships play in young people’s lives.

To being the show, Paul introduces Volcano Trash, the sequel to Ben Sears’s acclaimed 2016 graphic novel Night Air, the first in a series that takes place in what Sears terms “the Double+” universe. Both texts feature the exploits of a young man called Plus Man, his faithful sidekick, the robot Hank, as they engage in capers and navigate a world in which adults very often have nefarious agendas. Paul explains that even though the majority of secondary characters in Volcano Trash are male, the series would be enjoyable for all readers. Gwen agrees and chimes in with her appreciation for Sears’s use of color and his ability to add suspense and “motion” to the comic through the use of a variety of stylistic techniques. Gwen and Paul conclude by discussing the way that Sears’s sense of humor adds a welcome levity to the hijinks. (You can also check out additional discussion of Volcano Trash on the recent Publisher Spotlight episode devoted to Koyama Press.)

Next, the pair discuss Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends, a memoir of Hale’s grade school years that focuses on friendships won and lost. In addition to considering the features of Hale and Pham’s collaborative work, Gwen underscores the importance of the “Author’s Note,” which allows Hale to look back over her childhood, explain her rationale for writing a memoir, and provide young readers with advice about navigating the complicated hierarchies that develop in grade school. Paul agrees and points to the inclusion of Hale’s grade school photographs as a way to highlight the fact that the story is both real and focused on Hale’s actual experiences. Both Gwen and Paul highly recommend this text as an excellent read for any young person, regardless of whether they identify more with Shannon and are struggling to find true friendships or whether they are popular and confident but might benefit from thinking about friendships from the perspective of other kids.

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, Manga: Reviews of A Silent Voice and What Is Obscenity?

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Pussy Riot

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This month Shea and Derek look at two tonally different works of manga. They begin with Yoshitoki Oima’s series, A Silent Voice, the final (seventh) volume of which was released from Kodansha Comics at the end of May. It’s the story of an elementary school bully, Shoya Ishida, and his attempts to atone for his past behavior after he enters high school. The object of his ridicule was Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf transfer student who was pulled out of her elementary school because of Shoya’s insensitive mocking. Now teenagers, Shoyo and Shoko establish a relationship that is spottily therapeutic for both, and with the help of their former elementary school classmates with whom they reestablish contact. While the guys both enjoy this title, there are times when the narrative is worn a little thin. Derek feels that there is excessive emotional wallowing in places, and Shea is not thrilled with the series’ quick ending.

A completely different kind of manga is Rokudenashiko’s What Is Obscenity?: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy (Koyama Press). And the book’s subtitle says it all. Rokudenashiko — a pen name for Megumi Igarashi, and which translates into “good-for-nothing woman” — tells the story of her evolution as an artist, her work in manko (vagina) art (or “deco-man,” as she calls it), and her two 2014 arrests for violating various obscenity laws in Japan. The core of the text is its manga, three separate stories that were originally serialized in the leftist political magazine, Weekly Friday. But about a third of the book is composed of photographs and text-only supplemental material, making this more of a hybrid chronicle of Rokudenashiko’s art and legal ordeals. Both Shea and Derek love this book, filled with humor and keen observations on Japan’s archaic, paternalistically mandated obscenity laws. In fact, they each want to get a little Manko-chan figurine for themselves!

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Comic News Insider Episode 661 – Team Cap!

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Comic News Insider: Episode 661 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, Ringside #1

Emmy Potter returns to co-hosting duties! So of course, she and Jimmy have to chat Doctor Who and their love of Peter Capaldi. They also chat about the Peter Jackson/Doctor Who video tease as well as the new trailer for Captain America: Civil War (#TeamCaptainAmerica). News includes: Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso will be the creative forces behind a new 121 page graphic novel called Dark Night: A True Batman Story from DC/Vertigo, CBS picks up Supergirl for a full season and R2-KT may appear in the upcoming Star Wars film. Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love! Also, get a hold of us!

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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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Deconstructing Comics #432: A Cat Named John Martz

Cat Named TimAt the International Comics Festival in November, Tim picked up A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories by John Martz. It’s a whimsical book aimed at kids that plays with several devices that only work in comics. It’s also another example of the convergence of comics and children’s picture books that we noted on this podcast years back with Mo Willems.

This week Tim talks with John about this convergence, as well as the challenges of making material aimed at kids, inspiration from Jacques Tati and Charles Addams, storyboarding, Destination X, and, oh yeah, Popeye loops!

Deconstructing Comics site

Episode 109: Reviews of Baby Bjornstrand, The Kitchen #1, Masterplasty, and The Humans #1

“For Life. Till Death.”

Baby_BjornstrandThis week on the podcast, Andy W. joins Derek to discuss four recent titles…and boy, are you in for a treat. First, they look at Renée French’s new book, Baby Bjornstrand (Koyama Press). The guys discuss its Samuel Beckettesque setting, the unusual characters that make up the cast, the fragmented temporal arrangements, and French’s stripped down narrative style. Yet while some readers have described the book as bleak and downbeat, both Derek and Andy see a more hopeful — and perhaps even life-affirming — ending in the story. Next, they move from French’s barren landscape outside of time to an all-too-real story set in Hell’s Kitchen during the 1970s. Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s The Kitchen #1 (Vertigo) is a solid piece of Kitchenstorytelling that effectively launches this 8-issue miniseries. The guys are particularly taken by the final pages of this first issue, where Masters complicates his premise while at the same time laying on exposition without being overbearing. Andy and Derek then turn their attention to two recent titles from Image Comics. James Harvey’s one-shot Masterplasty is a curious story that doesn’t seem to stand entirely on its own…which may explain why Harvey describes it as a prequel to a much longer narrative Masterplastyhe’s working on. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is its unconventional size, the ultimate purpose of which has the guys scratching their heads. Finally, they look at the first issue in a new series from Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely, The Humans. Unlike most reviewers of this title, Derek and Andy don’t feel that this has much of a Planet of the Apes vibe. (Also, that’s way too facile a comparison, just because you have apes riding motorcycles.) Instead, they feel that the story in this first issues stands entirely on its own, and if anything, it reminds the guys of the kind of biker movies they remembered from the 1970s. While this is yet another offbeat humor comic from Image — following in the wake of God Hates Astronauts and Punks: The Comic — it’s one with a harder edge…as the overt references to pot, Quaaludes, and fellatio will attest. There’s a lot of weird, fun stuff for this week, and we hope you will join Andy and Derek for the wild ride.

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And as the guys mentioned on the show, you should throw your enthusiastic support behind Gabriel Dunston and his new Kickstarter campaign, Purgatory Pub (Book 2). It has the official Comics Alternative Stamp of Approval!

Also, be sure to check out the hip, clever, and visually appealing publication, Bachelor Pad Magazine, the digest of atomic age culture. Remember, booze, babes, and burly-Q can be your friends!

This episode’s incidental music is brought to you by
Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes
and The Humans Soundtrack

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Comic News Insider Episode 372 – The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival

Comic News Insider: Episode 372 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews: Archie #627, Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory #1, Theory Of Everything Pilot Season #1, THUNDER Agents Vol 4 #1

Jimmy is again joined in studio by Kevin Conn in an attempt to do a better and less rushed show than last week. Jimmy went to The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival and reports on what he saw/found. The boys talk about 2 recent online Star Wars themed videos (Elf Sabers and Cello Wars),  The Cabin in the Woods trailer, and Russell T. Davies temporary retirement, NASA finds Earth 2 and it’s Jimmy’s birthday on Friday, December 9th. News includes: X-Men vs. Avengers, Bendis leaving Avengers, Emily Carroll goes to print, Free Comic Book Day books announced, Red Cross concerned video games violate Geneva Conventions, Khan returns in Star Trek sequel, and Turf goes to film. As always, Listener Feedback, the Top 3 and more! Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love!

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