This one is my Yo La Tengo comic on the shoulders of the poetry giant, Mary Oliver. The words are excerpted from her poem, Wild Geese.
Process post on this one to come soon. Lots of details to comment on this one! For now though, I’d like to simply share the comic.
If you’d like to support my work and have a special book, order a copy for yourself or a friend.
I Can See the Birds (Juan Fernandez) – 5.5″x8.5″ – Color & Risograph – $6 postpaid
I Can See the Birds (Juan Fernandez) – 5.5″x8.5″ – Color & Risograph – $6 postpaid
A couple of weeks ago, Carl Antonowicz who writes for the Schulz Library Blog sat down with me and the Dog City boys to chat about what we’ve published in the past year as Dog City Press. The interview is now up on the blog. We talk about the editorial process, our philosophies and our aims for the future.
If you want to learn more about what we’ve been up to, this is as good a time as any!
Big ups to Carl for taking the time to interview us about this. It means so much!
The museum setting established a wonderful tone for the conference. It was a breath of fresh air to go to an intimate event with such a clear focus on discussing comics.
A big thanks is due to Jude Vachon, zine librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Vachon was the core organizer of this event and responsible for steering it toward such a success.
The days events ran from 10 AM until 5 PM. Each panel was a jam packed 45 minutes.
The first panel of the day was moderated by Bill Boichel, owner of the Copacetic Comics Company. It focused on the idiosyncrasies of the local Pittsburgh comics scene. The panel consisted of Lizzee Solomon, Andy Scott, Paulette Poullet and Nate Mcdonough.
The panelists spoke about their experiences self-publishing and the role that the Pittsburgh community played in their work practices.
Scott spoke about his anthology, Andromeda and the restructuring of the publication in late 2012 from a monthly to a quarterly format. Solomon spoke about cartooning being at the core of her multi-disciplinary work practices while Nate McDonough retold the beginnings of hisGrixly publication.
McDonough, Solomon and Scott spoke of their times drawing together during the early issues of Andromeda and the competitive one-upmanship that their drawing parties would foster.
The panel explored the inroads that the four cartoonists had made into self-publishing and the external factors in their lives that had driven them to continue to self-publish in Pittsburgh.
Following the Pittsburgh cartoonists panel, French cartoonist, Boulet (Gilles Roussel) , author of the 24-hour comic Darkness took the stage to give a lecture on the evolution of his cartooning practices.
He spoke about streamlining his creative process and the increased emphasis on improvisation that he had developed in his work. He spoke about working with Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim on the series, Dungeon along with the exquisite corpse comic, Chicou Chicou, that he developed with several French cartoonists.
The aim of Chicou Chicou was to create a fictional “auto-bio” group comics blog. The cartoonists would pass strips back and forth over the internet adding pages until they were complete. Each of the cartoonists involved created a persona and crafted a drawing style that suited their character. Boulet played a small, geeky girl named Ella.
Besides discussing the subtleties of drawing stories from the perspective of a female character, Boulet talked about the harassment he received online when writing under a female pen-name. He reported receiving unsolicited love letters and invitations on dates and noted that when he got into disputes people would ask “are you on your period or something?”
At the end of his talk, Boulet spoke succinctly of his influences and of his current project, a 200 page improvised story in which he is neither pencilling nor scripting. He showed several of the 60 pages that he’d completed and the audience was in awe.
Freelance writer, illustrator and graphic designer, Joan Reilly then took the stage and talked about her work editing the forthcoming feminist anthology, The Big Feminist But. Joan presented the book’s contents and the genesis of the project.
The Big Feminist But arose from Reilly and O’Leary’s attempts to learn why so many of us, women and men, couch discussions around feminism with the phrase “I’m not a feminist, but…” or “I am a feminist, but…”. They decided to embark on the journey of making a comics anthology as the first step in starting a conversation about the issue.
The result is a promising book that features “graphic musings on life, love, lust and liberation,” by talents such as Jeffrey Brown, Gabrielle Bell, and Lauren Weinstein.
The book’s list of contributors is especially notable for including a number of couples working together, as well as single men and women. Reilly mentioned that a number of Kickstarter backers expressed their gratitude that men were involved with the book as well– an observation that highlights The Big Feminist But’s drive to create an expansive and inclusive conversation about feminism.
Subsequently, John Porcellino, took the stage to talk about the story of his life of zine-making and distribution. He talked about the story of King Cat, and the Spit and a Half zine and comix distribution service.
Porcellino touched on his artistic development and the early years of King Cat (focusing on the first 50 issues, collected in King Cat Classix). Porcellino has created books, comics, and publications since he was 7 or 8, and was creating zines for years before he discovered Factsheet 5 and learned that other people were doing it too.
He read some highlights from early King Cat issues and talked about his work processes and goals in creating that work. One revelation from this portion of the talk was the influence of Marvel’s monster comics from the 50s and early 60s.
While the relationship between these fantastic stories and Porcellino’s chronicles of everyday life might not be immediately apparent, Porcellino emphasized the drab, repetitive nature of the monster stories as well as the alienation of their typical mad scientist protagonists. “As an artist I’m very interested in repetition and boredom,” he said.
Porcellino also talked about the sales and distribution history of King Cat, which was instructive for the many self-publishers in the audience. Gesturing to the cover of the first issue of King Cat to be sold in stores, Porcellino noted the 35 cent cover price and remarked “in true zine fashion, I probably charged 35 cents because it cost me 36 cents to print.”
He also talked about his history of working bizarre or menial jobs to support his comics, and pinpointed King Cat issue 42, which he wrote, drew, and edited entirely on company time, as “the point I became a professional cartoonist, because I was being paid to draw comics.”
Porcellino spoke about his interest in the idea of real life and the ineffable experience of being alive. One thing he mentioned—and we think this is a big part of what makes King Cat so special—is that he tried not just to describe the event of his experience, but to communicate the feeling of that experience. Porcellino characterized the subject matter of his comics as “this weird feeling I had… [of] the underlying mystery in every moment,” a description we think King Cat readers will agree is quite fitting.
Caitlin McGurk, librarian at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum moderated the following panel on self-publishing. Porcellino remained on stage to join Ramsey Beyer, Rachel Masilamani and Bill Boichel to chat about their experiences self-publishing in the United States.
Similar to the first panel of the day, the panelists spoke of how they’d found their way to comics and more generally towards self-publishing.
Masilamani recounted first encountering zines through Christina Kelly’s zine of the month column in Sassy magazine. She spoke about the experience of receiving the Xeric grant and the consequences that it brought along with it. It allowed for her to get her first comics into the world and to hit the ground running with her first collection of RPM, but from the get go she was on her own.
The panelists thoughts on the pricing of mini comics were particularly interesting. Not surprisingly, Boichel as a vendor and Porcellino as a distributor had a lot to bring to the discussion of the relationship between self-expression and the commodification of desire. Boichel mentioned that artists sometimes come to him with $20 minicomics, reporting that they sold a lot of copies in New York, but he knows they won’t sell at that price point in Pittsburgh.
Beyer emphasized the importance she placed on the ethics of the production process and mentioned having worked with 1984 Press in Oakland California.
Boichel, suggested that aspiring cartoonists always pick someone to write to; a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, someone. By thinking of their audience’s interests and their budget, they could be more likely to create works that would move through the world more freely.
Dash Shaw followed the self-publishing panel. He began his talk by showing some recent animation work. One of the most striking animations that he played was the music video,Seraph, which he had made in collaboration with Frank Santoro and other artists for Sigur Ros’ valtari film experiment.
Shaw took the audience through a brief survey of his cartooning work, starting with his three current publications– the minicomic New Jobs, published by Uncivilized Books, the pamphlet3 New Stories, and the graphic novel New School, both published by Fantagraphics– and working his way backward to the mammoth graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button.
One through-line of Shaw’s talk was his thoughts regarding line and color. “I could talk about color forever,” he said, and it’s hard not to get excited by his original and distinctive ideas.
Many of the pages Shaw showed from New School use color in ways that are entirely divorced from traditional comic book coloring. Shaw rarely uses colors to simply fill out the drawing, preferring instead to use the collision between the color and the line-art to create meaning and emotion, often in oblique and subtle ways.
This unwillingness to spell things out directly for the reader was evident in Shaw’s discussion of line and drawing as well. He spoke of being inspired by David Mazzucchelli’s idea of the “dumb line,” (which he describes in more detail here) and by trying to push back against the conventions of “good” illustration.
“So much illustration is about telling people what something is and how to feel about it,” Shaw said, adding that he wanted to make drawings that don’t tell their reader how to feel.
He also spoke about his fascination with the house styles found, among other places, in manga and Archie comics, speculating about an ideal, impossible Archie style. In Shaw’s conception, even the best Archie artists fall short of this Platonic style, and their own personal style would be the accumulation of their failings at achieving a true Archie drawing.
All in all, it was a dense, stimulating talk, and we can’t wait to dive into New School and read it with the attention Shaw’s work demands.
The fluidity of the discussion was really satisfying. Without much effort it hopped from discussions of style (and avoiding “style”) to explorations of narrative collapse. Of course, a highlight of the panel was the discussion of the differences between making money around comics and making money in comics.
Career development and survival were recurring topics, and every member of the panel had a different way of approaching making a living as a cartoonist. The common thread was work ethic and hustle.
Santoro half-jokingly described himself as “basically a used book dealer at this point.” Rugg spoke about doing design work and also discussed the Flight School fellowship , a professional development program for Pittsburgh artists he recently participated in.
To see the comics medium getting the attention of an established institution like the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and for it to occur at the Carnegie Museum was inspiring. Here’s hoping for more small events around the country with this level of intimacy and intensity of dialogue.
all in all, you could say…
I’m Pittsburgh bound, but I have pangs to be in Columbus. At the Billy Ireland Library and Museum, more precisely. Man, what a spiritual place…
Julie Sokolow recently produced a short video that explores that Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University. Watch the Tell Me Something I Don’t Know crew geek out over Nancy panels with librarian, Caitlin Mcgurk.
Speaking of spiritual places, I’m off to go to Pittsburgh real soon. I have the first edition of my first Dailies collection. I’m damn proud of my babies. I’m looking to give them out to all the good folks that have helped me out in my cartooning endeavors and then to sell a couple. Hope folks in the ‘burgh like ’em!
Here’s a peek at the ink that’s been flowing recently. As you can tell, Joann Sfar has been big on my mind recently.
So what’s new with me? Well, I recently picked up an illustration gig here in the Upper Valley. I can’t talk too much about it yet, but I’ll let you know how it pans out. There’s a pretty quick turn around on the project, so I should be able to share that with you soon.
Besides that, I’m currently working on 3 stories for an anthology project here at CCS. The anthology that I’m working on with my fellow students revolves around a time travelling delivery service. Each of the stories will be about the delivery of a particular item that plays an important role in the course of history. No fancy time logic here, just a simple premise and solid, whole hearted storytelling.
I’m looking to have the stories done by early December, one revolves around Yves Klein, another around Shodo, and another around chinese latticework. I’ve really been enjoying researching the three. I’m excited to what the sum of our efforts together is going to allow for us to create, especially the packaging.
Finally, as usual, I want to share some music with you. Earlier this week I came across the following video that juxtaposes Stan Brakhage’s experimental silent films, Dog Star Man, with Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right To Children. There are some really nice moments of synchronicity. Makes for some really nice background noise visually and musically while drawing.
As promised, here’s my newest comic, On They Bicker. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it tells a story and that’s what comics are about, right? I’d love to hear what you think of it.
Here’s a peek at the lineart of the comic that I’m currently working on. It should be all done tomorrow, both the web version and the print version.
I took loads of inspiration from Jordan Crane in terms of line variance and character design. I used a brush here and did everything by hand with ink and opaque white. I’ve never used brushes when making comics, so I thought I better stick close to the technique of someone whose work I love, if I wanted to churn out something that I’d be happy to look at. So far, I’m pretty damn proud of this comic. I’d be confident to say it’s my best so far. It’s a fun little story based on the fable of the Sun, the Wind and the Traveller’s Cloak.
Stay tuned for a full post of this little comic.
In news related to the comics making of others, two rad dudes, who inspire me immensely, Dan McCloskey and Nate McDonough are trekking around the Mid-West on a book tour. They’re making semi-professional writing more like semi-professional wrestling. Check these fuckers out.
Both are resident members of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s DIY anti-MFA, the Cyberpunk Apocalypsewriters’ cooperative, which recieved national attention in 2009 for living without heat, and being raided by dozens of police. Since then the project has been awarded a Heinz Endowment, provided space for 25 writers and artists to live and work. Seven books have been completed at the co-op in the past three years, including Nate McDonough’s Don’t Come Back and Daniel McCloskey’s A Film About Billy (a hybrid novel/graphic novel).McCloskey and McDonough work collaboratively and independently to create comic works that range from absurd to serious–disgusting to sentimental.
1820 Coventry Road – macsbacks.com
2319 West Belmont AvenueMadison – Wednesday 10/31 – Rainbow Books 6PM
426 West Gilman Street – rainbowbookstore.coopMilwaukee Zine Fest – Saturday 11/3 – Falcon Bowl – All day
801 East Clarke Street – milwaukeezinefest.orgSt Louis – Sunday 11/4 – Mushmaus – 5:30PM
2700 Cherokee St – mushmaus.org
Bloomington – Monday 11/5 – Boxcar Books – 7PM
408 East 6th Street – www.boxcarbooks.org
Columbus – Tuesday 11/6 – Shout Out Loud Prints – 6PM
539 East Town Street – Park on street, use back door
Local readers: Pat Kain, Leanne Oconnor, Ryan Albeck
Athens – Wednesday – 11/7 – TBD
Pittsburgh – 11/10 – Awesome Books DOWNTOWN – 7PM
END OF TOUR / BEARS IN SPACE RELEASE PARTY
929 Liberty Avenue – awesomebookspittsburgh.com