Skip to main content

Dead Trees

Webcomics in paper formats

Seeking Solace at the Symmetry Shop (An Appreciation of Ben Katchor)

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District
Pantheon Books, 2000

The Jew of New York
Pantheon Books, 1998

The central joke in "The Beauty Supply District" is neatly summed up by this gem from Carol Lay‘s old Frequently Asked Questions page:

Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: I buy them in enormous rolls from Hammacher Schlemmer.

The Beauty Supply District—another picturesque corner of Ben Katchor's New York-like city—is a little warren of shops where art and design ideas are sold over the counter. Towering geniuses of the art world make furtive visits to punch up their paintings, atonal compositions, and what have you. Commercial manufacturers stride in with less trepidation, aiming to put a new gloss on their line of olive products.

Interview: Jim Ottaviani

[Note: The following interview was conducted in July 2009, but has not previously been published.]

Since the 1997 release of his first graphic novel, Two-Fisted Science, writer, librarian, and one-time nuclear engineer Jim Ottaviani, has been telling compelling stories about the lives and work of scientists.  He’s written about everything from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s work on the atomic bomb (Fallout, 2001), to Hedy Lamarr’s invention of an early “frequency hopping” communication sytem (Dignifying Science, 2003), to  Harry Harlow’s investigations into the necessity of love (Wire Mothers, 2007).  Along the way, he’s worked with more than two dozen artists, including Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, Roger Langridge, Steve Lieber, Dylan Meconis, Linda Medley, and many others.

His eighth and most recent book, T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, relates the dual stories of the US and Soviet space programs through the late 1950s and 1960s, as they competed to be first to the lunar surface.  But true to form, Ottaviani’s telling of the story focuses less on the astronauts who made the journey than on the engineers and rocket scientists who made the journey possible.

Review: Family Man, by Dylan Meconis

I’ve never bought into the notion that “the eyes are the window to the soul.”  Sure, they play a role in reading a person’s mood or opinion, but if one were to ask me what facial feature is most revealing, I’d say the mouth, no question.  There’s a treasure of information to be read in the tension of a person’s lips, the crook of a smile, the skewing of a jaw.  By comparison, I just don’t think eyes have that much to say.

Dylan Meconis is working hard to change my mind.

The Best American Comics 2010: A Review

best american comics 2010 cover Another year, and another edition of the Best American Comics will be hitting shelves soon, bringing us the picks of this year’s honorable guest editor: Neil Gaiman. Fangirl that I am, the name alone was enough for me to find an advanced digital copy and give this 352-page tomb a read through. Gaiman’s selections are (mostly) great, and he is very funny in his introduction as he struggles along with us to come to grips with the ideas of “Best” and “American” in an international comics world.

“Best” is pretty subjective and, as my father always said, taste is all in your mouth. So to give you a flavor of what the 2010 edition has to offer, allow me to present the good, the bad, the weird, and the historical.

The Good: There is a lot of good here. Lilli Carre’s The Lagoon about a mysterious water-monster with a haunting voice has me wanting to go out and pick up the full story. 20 days of American Elf strips humorously tell the story of the birth of Jame Kochalka’s second son in 2007. And Peter Bagge’s The War on Fornication had me up in arms over people wanting to control my reproductive rights.

Breathers by Justin Madson

Breathers Book Five by Justin Madson

Breathers by Justin Madson is a series of self-published comics that I first found out about at SPX.  It's up to Issue #5 now and it remains an intriguing premise with some great characters and story arcs.  (There are actually six books as there is an Issue #0)  From what I can tell jumping around the web, it's criminal how few mentions of it there are, considering how good it is.  Some of that is simply due to its minimal presence on the web (which it would be well suited to as each book's chapters are episodic in nature) but it's also just another reminder that simply producing good work isn't always enough to connect with a big audience.

The world of Breathers is one where a virus has rendered the air unfit for humans to breathe without the assistance of a breather -- a mask to filter out the virus. The world is fairly well-adapted to this new status quo when the story starts although people do remember the world before.  Madson does a nice job of thinking through the implications of this situation, but this is not a hard core science fiction type story; it seems more interested in its characters and is even prone to bits of magical realism.

Comix Talk for Monday, July 12, 2010

Your post-World Cup comics report (start your planning for Brasil 2014 now!).

iWEBCOMICS: Comics Worth Reading has a round-up of some of the digital comics reader programs out there now.  She picks Comixology as the industry leader to date, based largely on its embrace of handhelds and wider selection of comics.

INTERVIEW: Sequential Tart has an interview with A. David Lewis, creator of the webcomic Braveplay.

DEAD TREE:  Brian Fies, creator of the comics Mom's Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? writes some advice about what to do when getting published.



Be Kind; Please Rewind

 At the Movies by Chris Cantrell

Chris Cantrell, long-time webcomics creator, has a new collection of his most recent webcomic, Please Rewind, called At The Movies (We reviewed Cantrell's other webcomic The Asylumantics here.)  It's the second collection of comics, from roughly 2007 to 2008 in the archives on the website.  It clocks in at 48 pages filled with almost 100 comics (in black and white with a color cover).

Comix Talk for Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Motel Art Improvement Service by Jason Little

Scott McCloud endorses the E-Sheep Kickstarter driveHelp Patrick Farley make more comics, folks!


LEGAL:  CBR has an interview with Nina Paley with some good discussion about copyright in the digital age.  Paley had epic copyright battles in getting her fantastic animated film Sita Sings the Blues released.

REVIEWS: Charley Parker talks about Asaf Ahanuka's effort to serialize an english language webcomic version of his Hebrew language comic, The Realist.

Conventions: Gary had the first part of his PAX East round-up yesterday, more to come this afternoon.

AROUND THE BLOGS: An amazing series of ABC driven artwork from Neill Cameron.

NOT WEBCOMICS: James Kochalka has a supporting role in a new movie Mars, that looks pretty interesting.  Shot entirely on greenscreen, it has a rotoscoped animated look not entirely unlike the videogame Borderlands.

ComixTalk for Monday, March 15, 2010

Crimson Dark by David Simon

AWARDS: The Doug Wright award nominees -- which honor English-language Canadian comics -- were announced last week. Kate Beaton's book Never Learn Anything From History is up for the Pigskin Peters Award (for unconventional, "nominally-narrative" comics); and among the finalists for finalists for Best Emerging Talent is Adam Bourret  for his comic I'm CrazyI gave I'm Crazy a mixed review, but Bourret certainly was a brave story-teller in his book and showed a lot of potential.

PLUG ONE: I haven't mentioned David Simon's Crimson Dark webcomic in quite awhile which is a shame because it's still one of the best 3d art webcomics I've seen.  Not sure how it's working, but Simon started a "club" for supporters to subscribe to at $2 to $5 a month to help him with having the time to produce Crimson Dark.

PLUG TWO: The Covered blog which spotlights re-dos of classic comic book covers by new artists.  I would love to see a webcomic spin on this.

INTERVIEW: Brigid Alverson has an interview with Dirk Tiede of the cop-supernatural thriller hybrid tale of Paradigm Shift.

TOOLS: Scott McCloud experiments with a simple browser-based drawing tool called Harmony.

Brainfag Forever: Comics by Nate Beaty from 1999-2007

Nate Beaty has been making comics for about a decade (at least) and collected 8 years of journal webcomics into Brainfag Forever (or BFF as it appears on the cover).  It's very self-revealing with a great deal of painful honesty in it.  Artistically it's all over the place and in that sense it's an overview of Beaty's life as a comic artist as much as the comic itself is an overview of his life in general.  It's no wonder this book collected a number of strong reviews last year.