Joe Kessler

Breakdown Press Co-Founder, Designer and Cartoonist, Joe Kessler joined me to talk about his new collection, Windowpane and shine a light on a bit of the history of Breakdown Press. Breakdown is one of the most interesting publishers in the UK right now, putting out some top notch forward thinking comics. I am a huge fan of all they do and Joe’s comics are pretty great too.

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Reading Stack January 17 2019

Life’s been really busy for me lately, so I haven’t been able to do as many interviews as I would like. I still read comics though, and have been posting small reviews on Twitter and Instagram. Here’s a look at what I have been reading.

If you want to send me stuff to check out, you can find me at

Inkstuds
#2147 – 720 Sixth St
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5
Canada

It still seems weird to me that we have so many new reprints of Hugo Pratt comics. The euro comics line from idw continues to impress with releases that 10 years ago, were just a pipe dream. 

This book The Man From The Great North, collects all of Pratt’s Jesuit Joe comics. They are weird canucksploitation stories taking place in the early 20th century in some mythical canadian setting only imagined by a European creator. 

The book is mostly finished colour comics with some filler pages made from early drafts by Pratt and material created for a film. 

I liked it as an odd ephemeral collection capturing latterday Pratt. Seeing how he distills his work, relying more on colour than his distinct ink work. 

I think there will be more in this series of reprints, as the Corto Maltese books are almost done.

I’ve been reading a lot of batman comics over the holidays. This is books 4,5,6 of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s batman run.

I don’t know if I completely understand this book. The main story is a weird conflation of what if the riddler was really into the khmer rogue and took over the city of Gotham and treated it like his own Cambodia. And instead of calling it Year Zero, let’s call it Zero Year. Oof. I think some small changes would make it feel a little less too on the nose. Like did any of the editors look at this and go, maybe let’s use a different name? It’s really too bad, because I think some parts work really well. The Riddler is basically that guy who you always see posting comments trying to prove he’s smarter than everyone else. It’s like the incel batman villian. And I think that’s a great take.

The last volume is a collection of different stories that seem to take place in that early batman prebatman storyline. I think. I’m not sure. I think I am going to keep treating these as the ridiculous comics they are and not get too caught up in the details. Good popcorn comics with some misguided concept choices

It’s issue 2 of Marc Bell’s epic series Worn Tuff Elbow. The last issue came out in the early 2000s, a staple of great alt comics. I love Marc’s comics and his amazingly weird world view. There’s nothing like a Marc Bell comic, filled with idiosyncratic non sequiturs, dense with ideas and interactions.

His work has a really nice poetry to it. It’s good work to get lost in. I really enjoy Marc’s work and think he is one of the greats, for creating some really forward looking comics for the past 20 plus years. I think you can this new book directly from Marc.

So I finally finished going through the Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo batman run. I have a bunch of thoughts. Some stuff worked really well, some didn’t.

The main story of this third set is called endgame, the title makes frequent shout outs through out the series after. It’s basically a good old fashioned batman and joker beat eachother up until they can’t. I think this is where they shine. The darker the story, the better. I think if they treated batman like a straight up horror comic, it would work so well. Just be dark and enjoy it. Let it exist on its own.

A good half of the collections are filler stories until getting to the conclusion. Most of it really confuses me. Maybe I am getting old and too used to a different batman. The final major story has a young hunky Jim Gordon take on being batman as some official corporate program. Again, the good parts are the straight horror.

Finally started reading this last night. The first volume of the last man by Bastion Vives and company. I read it before going to bed and then I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know if it’s from the action pack fun in the comic, or the box of donuts I ate earlier.

I liked this book and will likely go through the rest of the series over the holidays. Great drawing and keeps moving.

Read Blackwood, written by Evan Dorkin and art by team of Veronica and Andy Fish. I love that Evan Dorkin is writing comics for other folks to draw. I think his mind works a lot quicker than he has time to draw. The story is a straight up high school horror comic, probably channeling a bunch of different sources that Evan loves. He has a deep affection for comics in themselves, and I love seeing how he processes that.

The art team works really well, catching that attention to detail but not getting too caught up on letting the story speak for itself.

I finally got caught up with some Michael DeForge. I think Brat from Koyama is likely his longest straight story other than the forthcoming Leaving Richards valley. My eye sight has been pretty bad for the past couple of years, so I have kind of avoided a good chunk of comics that are hard for me to read. I got new glasses a couple of months ago and it makes a huge difference and it’s nice to be reading more and not getting headaches. 

This book has everything I could want from a deforge comic. Magic the gathering, a Patrick Kyle style sequence, troublesome teens and lots of introspection amd hubris!

This is a very lovely little book. Volume 1 of Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. It’s an extremely sweet book that looks shows Tagame digging deep personally and using the space to process and a book that others can also benefit from.

I don’t read a lot of manga, so I forget the great way that manga allows you to breathe and go through thoughts with the characters. Tagame takes his time. He seems to want the reader to feel the personal introspection and internalize that. 

He’s a very clear cartoonist telling anx extremely easy to read comic. Will probably read volume 2 tonight.

As promised, I read book 2 of My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame. It continued to be delightful. I think it moves forward quite a lot with this book. Working through some of the internal conflict introduced when the protagonist meets his twin brothers widow.

There’s no super easy resolution, instead he overcomes his own judgements when confronted with the judgements of others.

There is a neat idea of finding family and fulfillment when you let yourself be open. Sharing experiences and be together and letting things be organic. Family isn’t necessarily blood, but those that care for you and want to be with you. 

I like that you can see where he is having fun drawing what he finds sexy without making it sexual. Tagame is an extremely solid artist that can draw what he wants in the way he wants. 

Although it feels like there is a natural conclusion, I would be interested to see the story continue in a way like life does and relationships fluctuate and grow.

I quite liked this comic by Emi Gennis. It’s short, to the point and doesn’t hold back. Published by Kilgore books as a part of their most recent Kickstarter lot. It’s always worth checking into what they are putting out. Solid comics. Baseline Blvd is quiet meditative book that gets under your skin, challenges what is acceptable and manipulation. I need to read more of Emi’s comics.

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Steve Skroce

Vancouver cartoonist, Steve Skroce joined me to talk about his latest book, Maestros. This is Steve’s first book written for himself, having previously worked with a wide range of writers like Alan Moore on Youngblood, Brian K Vaughn on We Stand on Guard and The Wachowskis on Doc Frankenstein.

Steve is someone whose work I had been following since back when I worked in a comic store as a teenager, so it was nice to finally get an interview done.

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David Small

David Small joined me to talk about his latest book, Home After Dark. While his previous work, Stitches was a memoir, his latest is a work of fiction that still captures a similar feeling and emotion. I really liked the book and this conversation.

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Festival Focus: Comic Arts Los Angeles

Here’s another in a run of interviews with dedicated folks who put together independent comics shows in North America. Los Angeles’ CALA is about to hold their fifth annual event, and guest ‘stud Kit Brash talked to two of the team behind it, Jen Wang and Jake Mumm, a couple of weeks after last year’s show.

This year’s CALA will run on December 8th and 9th, from 10am til 5pm each day. Guests will include Taneka Stotts, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Marinaomi, Laura Lannes, Cathy G. Johnson, Landis Blair, Ezra Claytan Daniels, and Hartley Lin. The venue, a gymnasium at 3000 Dolores St in Glendale, has that common LA curse of being five times quicker by car than by public transport, but there’s parking onsite and in surrounding streets, with a food truck and tables to save precious table-browsing time. Entry is free, re-entry is probably because you had to hit the ATM and come back. All the details are at comicartsla.com.

 

 

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Live talk with Anna Haifisch, Marian Churchland and Olivier Schrauwen

Last year I joined the board of Directors for the Vancouver Comic Art Festival. It’s been really fun getting more involved in supporting local events and comics happening. The first event we did outside of the regular festival, was this talk with Anna Haifisch, Olivier Schrauwen and Marian Churchland. We did the event in the new theatre in the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Many thanks to Fantagraphics for facilitating the visit from Anna and Olivier and to the VPL for hosting.

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Leif Goldberg

Leif Goldberg joined me to talk about his new book from 2dcloud, Lost In The Fun Zone. We also cover a range of work including his time in Fort Thunder, recent mini comics, yearly calendars and animation. Leif makes some really great fun and inspiring work.

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My Reading Stack from the last couple of months November 20 2018

It’s been active couple of months with some family stuff throwing a quick wrench in, so I haven’t read as much I would have liked. Please enjoy.

If you want to send a book or comic for me to check out, you can mail to me at

Inkstuds
#2147 – 720 Sixth St
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5
Canada

I got this lovely collection of comics by Hong Kong cartoonist Chihoi a bunch of years ago at tcaf. I slept on reading this and really should have gotten into it sooner. It’s a beautifully sentimental book that gets to some deep heart hits. You ca see some growth throughout the book with stories getting a little more teeth and taking in unexpected directions. I really enjoyed it.

I started reading Scott Snyder’s batman run over the summer and got sidelined by life stuff and forgot to write about it. I have a weird relationship with batman comics. They were really pivotal for me when growing up. The Breyfogle run will always be super import for me.

I stayed reading batman stuff for years, all the while also staying on top of weirdo Avant guarde comics. There was a point though that they got kind of completely unreadable. Like editorial direction and interference just made it into garbage. A friend of mine that stays on top of this stuff told me that he had been really enjoying it.

The is the first 3 books of the Snyder run, drawn for the most part by artist Greg Capullo. I think Scott and I are pretty close in age, so we probably think of similar story arcs when we think of batman.

I don’t think of this work as a guilty pleasure, and that term kind of bugs me. We shouldn’t feel bad for enjoying something. Taste is subjective. We can be critical about work and still find enjoyment.

I think of this stuff as if Snyder and Capullo are doing fan fiction. From what I understand, the sales are good enough on the title that they didn’t have to deal with too much editorial interference. It’s fun silly and a lot of shit blows up. It’s like watching a fast and furious movie in a comic with less corona.


Read Spinning by Tillie Walden on the flight home from Vegas. I brought it so I could have something grounding after all the madness. It’s been sitting on my shelf for far too long with lots of people asking me if I read it. Well I did read it. I liked it.

While I don’t necessarily feel like the intended audience, I found it compelling. There something I really appreciate the way that Tillie tells her story in such sparse open way. Giving ideas time and place, but not forcing anything.

And find myself getting sick of memoirs of exceptionalism. This book really works for me, in letting the mundane be present. Struggles don’t need to have perfect endings, life isn’t perfect. We want things to work out, but that’s not the case often and we find ways to move on and process.

I love this weird freaking book from uncivilized. The whistling factory by Jesse McManus is a great collection of his work. There’s no table of contents, or list of where things were originally printed, but I know Jesse has had his stuff everywhere. I think his first published comic was in a Kramers ergot.

Jesse is one of the great inkers, putting down layers of stuff everywhere, creating this surreal dynamism. It’s vibrant and full of life and energy, taking the characters through horrible joyous and hideous realities.

I think I picked this up in Bellingham earlier this year at a small little comic show. Night Time by Travis Rommerheim is a lovely surreal riso comic with a great bold blue colour. The cover kind of under sells the book. The art is really great. Nice full figures and a great sense of movement. It’s a short story taking place in one day of the life of performance artist that seems to just be weird enough to add interesting flourishea. There’s alao a great gag making fun of Johnny Ryan that made me laugh pretty hard.

I’ve been going through a bit of a nostalgia phase. I can’t release focus on deep interviews right now, so I have been reading oldies. This is a recent collection of prime batman comics of my youth.

I remember that time in the early 90s where DC was going through a phase of destroy the man characters after the success of the death of the mulleted superman. I remember how hokey those were and getting lost in how silly it all was. For batman, before the endless knightfall crossover that revolved around batmans fall and return, they did a storyline of just beating batman up. The premise was great, bane wants to destroy batman, but first has him dealing with an endless array of villains. It’s basically batman getting his butt beaten. The stories are pretty silly for most part. One writers work does not age well, with batman fighting “gang bangers”. It’s like the writer heard of NWA and made up his mind. Really bad writing by chvck d!xon. But their some weird art that sticks out to me, with this expressionist batman with ears that stick out from the side of his head.

The Doug moench stuff is much better. He has this one villain called metal head that swings a barb chain at people that comes out of his mask like a dude with a top bun. It’s amazing. An S&M leather dude mad at batman. The artwork on metal head is top notch end of career Jim Aparo. Love it.

There’s a lot of great covers included by Sam Kieth, Kelly Jones, Michael Golden and early Travis Charest.

Read hellboy in hell on my flight to Vegas. I read this originally when it came out as issues and it wasn’t a great way to keep track of what was going on. After deeply immersing myself into hellboy over the last couple of months, a lot of the references clicked on for me, but I don’t think enjoyment of this book is necessarily linked to that.

I guess I am saying read this book in one sitting. It’s very open with ideas passing through. I feel like all the hellboy books preceding this volume are Mignola working on building his story telling muscles, to know how to work trim the fat and step away from direct literal and linear ideas.

It really is Mignola at the top of his form, putting a career’s worth of cartooning development into one volume.

Rita Fürstenau sent me some of their minis published by Rotopol in Germany. Firstly, every thing I see from Rotopol has been great. Strong well produced art comics with a great attention to the print quality.

Rita’s mini, In Winter is quite lovely. Kind of perfect to read on this cold day at home. Winter isn’t quite here yet, but the cats are in deep hibernation mode at home.

The mini is about finding one another through times of loneliness and solitude. Quiet and impassioned, I very much enjoyed it.

She also included some fold out zines that again, are really beautiful and impeccably printed.

 

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John Harris Dunning

This week, I was joined by writer John Harris Dunning to discuss his latest book, Tumult, created with artist Michael Kennedy. Dunning has been really active in the UK comics scene, most notably, the Comics Unmasked exhibition in 2014 at the British Library. One of the largest shows of its kind in the UK at that point.

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Peter Bagge

I have been a fan of Peter Bagge’s for longer than I can remember, and he was also one of my earliest guests on the show, so it’s always great to catch up with him. Peter was in Vancouver last month for the big Fan Expo convention, I took advantage of that time to sneak an interview in. It was supposed to be spotlight panel at the convention, but we didn’t think anyone was there for it, so we recorded part of it with just us talking. The sound is a little rough because we are in a curtained off area in a giant convention hall.

Peter’s latest book is coming out in the spring from Drawn and Quarterly, Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story. As well, you can catch him in Reason magazine.

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