I look foward to this show all year long, and it never disappoints. There is such excitement for comics, the feeling is tangible in the room. And there are so many good artists out there. It's really amazing to see how many young, creative, talented artists are self-publishing their work. The whole show has that real grassroots feeling that you can't get at the larger Comic-Cons. And there's no Klingons or Vampirellas wandering around making you feel ashamed to be there. It's just a group of people sharing a love for the artform. Not only do I love seeing all the great mini-comics out there, but I feel inspired to create my own.
So, here are my thoughts, reactions, encounters and impressions from the first day in no particular order:
Though I got a lot of stuff yesterday, the 5 books I ended up reading last night were:
- Disquietville vol. 1 by Daniel Spottswood - Disquietville definitely uses many of the conventions established by Chris Ware - the tiny panels, the extended pacing, the primary color scheme and even the simple, rounded character designs - yet Spottswood's strips do not have the same desperate sense of loneliness that pervades much of Ware's work. Instead, the characters are everyday artists struggling with balancing relationships, jobs, financial concerns and life in general. They're sweet, funny and charming. My wife also read this book last night and loved it just as much as I did. Highly recommended. You can check out some of his strips online at the link above.
- Carnival by Stef Lenk - this is an absolutely gorgeous book. Imagine Renee French combined with Thomas Ott, with the color sense of Jon J. Muth and you can sort of get the picture. Carnival is a silent book that follows a young girl wandering through a carnival with her toy heart doll at her side. It's textured, etched, and meticulously crosshatched art make for a very impressive debut.
- Hung no. 1 and 2 by Shannon Gerard - Shannon Gerard's illustrated poems are not for everyone, but Gerard's definitely an artist to watch. While the first issue, about a woman longing for "the ripe, animal joy" of a past relationship wasn't my favorite, the second issue showed a tremendous step forward in terms of both art and writing. Gerard's art leans more toward the photo-realistic, featuring the artist herself in many of the pages, but shows a great ability to draw figures and facial expressions. Gerard's poetry is also considerably better in the second issue as she explores the pain of breaking up and seeing your ex everywhere. I also particularly enjoyed the "hipster bingo" insert, which is a game meant to be played in an urban setting where everyone is competing to define themselves into certain predefined stereotypical looks.
- Content #2: Kaleidoscope by Gia-Bao Tran - those who remember G.B. Tran's first Xeric award winning issue of Content, and have been patiently waiting more than two years for new work, will not be disappointed. Tran's second book is outstanding. There is no single story here, but rather several short stories which are woven together with some clever visual transitions and interesting coincidences. Tran proves he is capable of writing both serious, interesting characters (as in the presumably autobiographical tale of his parents escaping from Vietnam) and at the same time, disappearing into his imagination as well (best evidenced by the cell phone sex scene!!!). Tran is one of those creators whose work shows endless passion, and this is definitely one of the best works of the year. I highly encourage you to order it directly from the artist if you can't wait until it ships through Diamond.
Other random thoughts:
- Picturebox Inc. debuted their new Comics Comics magazine, and it's a very interesting project. Presumably meant to compete with Comic Shop News, this is a free, low quality (in terms of the production on newsprint, rather than the content) mini version of the Comics Journal, with some original cartoons by Mark Newgarden and others, as well as a couple of essays and a few pages of reviews. I sincerely hope this does well as it fills a particular niche that no one else has yet.
- Marjane Satrapi's Chickens with Plums, which will be released by Pantheon in October, looks very interesting.
- First Second Books had preview copies of their second wave of books (though they were for looking only, not for sale), including Missouri Boy by Leland Myrick, American Born Chinese by Gene Yang and Klezmer by Joann Sfar. All three looked as outstanding as you would expect.
- Blurred Books had preview copies of their second anthology, Blurred Vision volume 2, and were kind enough to give me a copy. I can tell you that this book is sure to be one of the major indie anthologies of the year, and features new work by Ethan Persoff, Dash Shaw and several others. The book won't hit stores until the Fall, so as it gets closer, I'll post a more detailed review.
- Artist Greg Ruth mentioned that he has completely rewritten his first graphic novel, Sudden Gravity, and that it is "much better." The collected edition of the long out of print (and excellent) Caliber mini-series is due later this year from Dark Horse.
That's all I can think of right now, though I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton of stuff. I'll have another update probably tomorrow. I also conducted a series of spontaneous "1 minute interviews" with many creators, publishers and other kind folks who patiently endured my thrusting a handheld tape recorder in their faces. As the week goes on, I'll be posting these right here, so please check back.