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Life Stories, Evil Philosophers, and Butts with Eyes
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. After 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.
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!