Monday, October 15, 2012

Adrian Tomine
I was able to see Adrian Tomine, one of my favorite writer-artists at the Harvard Book Store in October. Adrian is the creator of the long-running comic book series Optic Nerve and, more recently, a cover and interior artist for The New Yorker. He was appearing in Cambridge as part of his national tour promoting his new book, New York Drawings.

This beautiful hardcover is an homage to the city Adrian has called home for the last seven years (he's a West Coast native), and features all of his New Yorker covers, illustrations, and sketches that were inspired by the city and its people.  

He gave a great presentation, which included a reading of the three-page comic that serves as the book's introduction. A real highlight of his talk centered on the "old school" approach he first used to make contact with The New Yorker. Following his presentation, Adrian talked at length with each of us interested in receiving an autographed copy of the book. He's a real class act.

I love New York Drawings, but the reason I made sure I attended this event was to tell Adrian that his latest issue of Optic Nerve, published last fall, is the best comic I've read in years.  
I'm grateful to him, and publisher Drawn & Quarterly, for continuing to publish "comic books" at a time when more and more independent publishers and creators are opting to publish larger (by page count) graphic novels and hardcovers.

Sure, when the contents of this issue (#12) are reprinted and combined with his next couple of issues as a squarebound or hardcover collection, I'll buy it. I buy all of his stuff. But these 40 pages--two great feature stories, a letters section, and auto-bio back-up--cannot be beat as a stand-alone comic book. It's a complete package.

You can preview and order New York Drawings and order Optic Nerve #12 direct from Drawn & Quarterly here.

Thanks for the signed copy of New York Drawings, Adrian. And thanks for signing a copy of my favorite comic book!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

How i Made the World
is a 2012 Xeric Grant Winner

This year will mark the final round of self-publishing grants from The Xeric Foundation—the prestigious nonprofit corporation established by Peter Laird, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. TMNT itself was begun as a self-published venture in 1983. Since 1992, the foundation has granted financial assistance to many of our favorite comic book creators for self-publication.
We’d discussed applying for a Xeric grant since we first began work on How i Made the World. When we heard there would be one final comic book review, we knew we had to apply. Yet, we also knew the competition would be fierce. Entries from throughout the U.S. and Canada are judged on “originality, literary and artistic merit, and a sense of commitment to the work.”
During the weeks leading up to the February 29 submission deadline, we hunkered down in our studio with lots of takeout and a marvelous, limitless supply of tunes from Spotify. 
With minutes to spare on Leap Day—17, in fact—we post-marked our baby and shipped her off. The Post Office never did confirm delivery. Yikes! But our application did arrive among a record number of entries.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce we are the recipients of a 2012 Xeric Award. The grant is to be used for the printing, advertising, and distribution of our comic book, the pilot issue of How i Made the World.
From our Xeric submission, The Monster. You can see more here.

We've enjoyed the comic books of past Xeric recipients for years. They are among the most entertaining and innovative independent comic books being published, and they are often included in Houghton Mifflin's annual The Best American Comics. We're deeply honored to be among those recognized by the foundation. 

Thank you, Xeric administration, staff, and review panel. We're also extremely grateful to our family and friends who have supported our work. And thank you, Sianna, Dominique, Rebecca, Anita, Ryan, Deborah, and Adam—our computer/Photoshop wizards. 

We’ll be working on the final stages of our comic and preparing it for press in the coming months. Stay tuned! This is only the beginning. 
Liz Plourde & Randy Michaels

Monday, June 11, 2012

Maine's Main Attraction

The Maine Comics Arts Festival, held annually on the shores of Casco Bay in Portland, Maine, is a great place to meet comic creators and see their latest work. These events, sponsored by Rick Lowell and Laura O'Meara's Casablanca Comics, feature dozens of self-publishers and creators of small press titles.

While it's impossible to sample all the comics on display, we picked up some great reads at this year's festival in May, and recommend checking them out.

One of the featured guests was author and artist Kate Beaton, creator of the immensely popular webcomic Hark! A Vagrant. Drawn & Quarterly has published a collection of Kate's irreverent takes on historical and literary figures, and it's hilarious! Time magazine called it "the wittiest book of the year." Kate was on hand to sign copies and she couldn't have been nicer, taking time with each fan to create a personalized drawing in their books. Thanks for the Tesla sketch, Kate!

Cody Pickrodt had special preview editions of his latest series Reptile Museum on display. Cody's done autobiographical comics, but this is his first foray into fiction. In the story, an unmentioned cataclysmic event has reshaped civilization. Anarchy is rampant, and territorial gangs have formed as a means of survival. The preview sets the stage for the series and raises lots of interesting questions. Cody plans on serializing the story in bimonthly print installments beginning this summer/fall and he says this will be his magnum opus. He's got an extensive archive of comics  on his website.

Heather Bryant was back after skipping last year's festival. We always look forward to seeing her new work.  Mixtape is a wonderfully illustrated mini-comic about a high school crush gone wrong. Heather also brought along the latest in her Sho Ga Nai: Stories from Japan  series. Her lifelong love of Japan culminated in a two-week trip there in 2006. The stories reveal how that experience changed her perception of the country and her relationship with her traveling companion, her mother.

Sophie Goldsmith's Mother Ship Blues is a beautifully produced book, with engaging characters whose personalities are established immediately through her dead-on art and dialogue. For an eight-page preview, go to her website and scroll to the May 8, 2012, blog entry.

Donna Almendrala and Adam Whittier man the Center for Cartoon Studies table.
The students and graduates of Vermont's Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) always have some of the most exciting comics on display at the show. We really enjoyed talking with 2012 grad Donna Almendrala and picked up the first installment of her Chimps in Space. The three-part series follows the adventures of four chimps exploring the galaxy. Donna knows how to tell a mystery - and draw cool chimps.

CCS student Adam Whittier shared with us some of the techniques he uses to produce The Barny Vaq Chronicles, an interesting story with a great father-daughter relationship at its core. Looking forward to future installments of this intriguing tale.

Amelia Onorato's Master's thesis, Rockall, is "a Selkie story" - a tale of the mythological creatures from Irish and Scottish folklore said to live as seals in the sea, but shed their skin on land and become human. Great characters and art, and you really feel a part of the island community the story is set in. You can read the first two of three chapters at Amelia's website.

Our stellar Photoshop wizards Dominique and Sianna made the trip and were thrilled to meet the illustrious Kate Beaton.

The Maine Comics Arts Festival allows us to peruse so many great new comics. We're already looking forward to next year.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Dream Big

When I was a kid, I'd go to bed at night and have a recurring dream. In it, I'd stumble upon a stash of gigantic, over-sized comic books.

I'd loved comics since my Uncle Billy took me to the corner store and gave me a nickel to buy a funny animal title missing half its cover. I soon graduated to DC superheroes and then, gloriously, to the Marvel universe.

In that wonderful dream, I’d spread out a stack of super-sized comics featuring Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and Captain America. I’d devour page after page of extra-large, dynamic comic adventures. What a dream.

I’d always wake disappointed that, as far as I knew, no such thing existed. I’d have to settle for the roughly 7 by 10 inch books that fit comfortably in the variety store spinner racks. 

When I discovered the plus-size DC and Marvel Treasury Editions, published in the 70’s and featuring Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Thor – just to name a few – I was in heaven. At 100 pages each, these truly were treasures. To be able to see Jack Kirby, John Romita and Steve Ditko pages at nearly the size they were drawn was amazing – and a real eye-opener for someone who liked to draw.

But as good as those Treasury Editions were – and they were great - they couldn’t quite match those magical issues encountered in my dreams. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the newsprint-like paper stock used at the time, which led to the images of one side of a page bleeding into the other. 

Last week, I happened upon the just-released Archie Treasury Edition from IDW Publishing. I had no idea this was in the works. Wow. The book is 13” by 9¾” and the cover and paper stock are outstanding. The vibrant colors leap off the page. Sixty-four pages of Dan DeCarlo stories originally published from 1957 to 1967. For only $9.99. The quality of this product is among the best I’ve ever seen. This is what I’d dreamed of those years ago.

IDW has published an outstanding series of comic strip reprint books featuring characters like Rip Kirby, Terry and the Pirates, Little Orphan Annie, King Aroo, Dick Tracy, and Archie by Bob Montana. They’ve also put out a series of great hardcovers featuring stories by specific Archie artists, including DeCarlo, Harry Lucey, and Stan Goldberg. The relationship IDW has forged with Archie Comics is resulting in some great stuff for lovers of classic comics. I’ve grabbed them all. But this Treasury Edition is my favorite so far, and I highly recommend it.

As I’ve pored over these newly reprinted tales of Archie, Jughead, and Betty & Veronica, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see classic Marvel Comics characters given the same high-quality treatment.

Can you imagine Kirby’s FF in this format? Or Romita’s Spider-Man? IDW has already teamed with Marvel for their Artist's Edition series. Would the two companies consider working together to bring about super-sized, vintage Marvel comics? 

Well, I can always dream.