Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of the 2017 Eisner Award Nominees

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:55 – Webcomics news: The Library of Congress’ Web Comics Web Archive
  • 00:11:24 – Trying to make sense of the Eisner Awards’ “Best Web Comic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories
  • 00:30:37 – The Middle Age
  • 00:44:30 – On Beauty
  • 00:56:54 – Helm
  • 01:08:27 – On a Sunbeam
  • 01:32:41 – Wrap up
  • 01:34:14 – Contact us

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Definitionally Challenged

For the June webcomics episode, Sean and Derek take a close look at the webcomics nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards. Before they do that, though, they have to determine exactly which titles are actually webcomics and which are not. If this sounds strange, that’s because this year the people behind the Eisner Awards have separated “Best Digital Comics” and “Best Webcomic” into two completely different categories — which is a good thing — but in doing so they have ill-defined the criteria to where there are digital comics mixed in the “Best Webcomic” category and webcomics in the “Best Digital Comic” category. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any clear distinctions between the two…which was the problem in previous years when webcomics and digital comics were unfortunately clumped into the same category. Sean and Derek discuss in detail the problems underlying this year’s categorization, and they offer advice for next year’s judges and hope that in the future there will be a much more precise understanding of what a webcomic actually is.

After that, they begin discussing the real webcomics that are scattered between the “Best Webcomic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories. There are five in all, and in this episode they discuss Steve Conley’s The Middle Age and Christina Tran’s On Beauty (both nominated for “Best Webcomic”), as well as Jahanzeb Hasan and Mauricio Caballero’s Helm and Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam (inexplicably nominated under “Best Digital Comic”). Anne Szabla’s Bird Boy was also nominated as a webcomic, but since the guys discussed that title on a previous webcomics episode, they spend their time talking about the other nominees. And as the guys reveal, there is a reason why these four titles are nominated for an Eisner Award this year. They’re all well-written, keenly drawn, and ambitious in what each endeavors to accomplish. Both Sean and Derek wish this year’s webcomics creators, despite the appropriateness of the categories for which they’re nominated, the best of luck when the announcements are made at next month’s SDCC!

Comics Alternative, Episode 188: A Publisher Spotlight on Avery Hill Publishing

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Musical Discoveries

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Gwen and Derek are back with another publisher spotlight episode, this one on the UK press, Avery Hill Publishing. They begin their spotlight with a short interview with the people behind Avery Hill: Ricky Miller, Dave White, and Katriona Chapman. Derek talks with them about the origins of the press, the kind of creators that have come to define Avery Hill, their distribution and publicity outside of the UK, and their plans for fall releases and beyond.

After that conversation, Gwen and Derek get into the nitty gritty of the publisher’s current offerings. They start by looking at the most recent issues of two ongoing series from Avery Hill, Reads #4 and Metroland #3. The former is an anthology periodical currently in its second volume, and the two discuss its various serialized storylines. Gwen is particularly fond of Owen D. Pomery’s “The Megatherium Club,” but they also discuss Reads‘ other historically based stories — Ricky Avery-HillMiller and Tim Bird’s “Hitchcock and Film” as well as Bird and Luke James Halsall’s “The Bullpen” (inspired by Marvel Comics in the early 1960s) — and the colorful, offbeat comics of EdieOP. The most recent issue of Metroland continues the drama behind Ricky Miller and Julia Scheele’s fictional 1980s band, Electric Dreams, and while discussing this evolving narrative, Derek and Gwen even wax nostalgic over their own musical histories growing up during that time.

Next, they discuss three new books released this spring. A City Inside is yet another work from Tillie Walden — she’s become a singular force at Avery Hill — and this one is a measured, meditative look at self-identity with an almost poetic tone. Rachael Smith’s Artificial Flowers does to the London art scene what Miller and Scheele’s Metroland does with the city post-punk. Both the artist’s unassuming premise and her clean, iconic art style easily draw Gwen and Derek into this fun story. And then finally, the cohosts wrap up with the latest book in Matthew Swan’s Parsley Girl series. Neither Derek nor Gwen had been familiar with Swan’s work previously, but Parsley Girl: Carrots proves to be a good introduction into his weird and almost psychedelic narrative world.

Overall, both Gwen and Derek find a lot of excitement behind this young press. Avery Hill may be just now getting a foothold in the US market — thanks to its recent distribution agreement with Retrofit/Big Planet — but as this episode demonstrates, it’s definitely a publisher worth watching.

Parsley Girl-interior

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Comics Alternative Interviews: Tillie Walden

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“Great party, isn’t it?”

WaldenPicOn this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews, Derek has a great time talking with Tillie Walden, the author of a brand new book from Avery Hill Publishing, The End of Summer. This is her debut graphic novel, and, in fact, her conversation with Derek is the very first time she’s been on a podcast. (Yet another Comics Alternative exclusive!) On the show, Tillie talks about the origins of her story, her process of creation, and the unlikely events that led to her first publication. The End of Summer is a narrative of purpose in isolation, EndOfSummeran attempt to find meaning in a life defined by diminishing options. Walden’s haunting art reveals the inner turmoil of her protagonist/narrator, Lars, as he negotiates the tangles within his family over the course of one long winter. Plus, she includes in her story a giant cat by the name of Nemo. Derek talks with Tillie about the balancing act of being a full-time student — she’s just wrapped up her first year at the Center for Cartoon Studies — and creating a long-form comic. They also discuss her love of architectural illustration (evident throughout the book), the dream-like quality of her storytelling, and the many instances of Kubrick’s The Shining that kept popping into Derek’s head as he was reading the book. All in all, it is an illuminating conversation that will have you wanting to check out this promising young writer.

Here is some sample art from The End of Summer:

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And be sure to check out Tillie Walden’s website.

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