Monday, 30 November 2015

Snapshot thoughts: Holding together the Kingpin's humanity in patterned waistcoats

Published in 1986, Frank Miller's and Bill Sienkiewicz's Daredevil: Love and War is an often overlooked dissection of male pathology and power in superhero comics- most specifically with regards to the roles and treatment of women. Vanessa Fisk, wife of Kingpin Wilson Fisk, lies comatose, having suffered a psychological break that leaves her unable to speak. Having exhausted a variety of medical avenues, a desperate Kingpin orders the kidnapping of Cheryl Mondat, wife of prominent, specialist psychologist, Dr. Mondat, using her capture as the incentive in his forced treatment of Vanessa. Kristian Williams penned an illuminating essay on the book and its central themes last year, and that's not ground I wish to retread. Instead, this piece aims to examine Love and War in its function as a fundamental character study of the Kingpin as a sympathetic figure, and the manner in which Sienkiewicz uses the extremity of his size in tandem with his sartorial choices to bring about this distinctive portrayal. 

Clothes are regularly used as markers of personality, and a facet of identification. Clothes can be an extension of culture, of function, an expression of self (even in choosing not to), a response to external conditions such as weather, or occasion; a way of marking out position and responsibility. In superhero comics, this is enforced via the notion of costume. Villains and heroes are given costumes that denote their respective traits, the familiar repetition of which aligns suggested ideologies in the reader's mind, whilst also making them easy to pick out on the page. This usage of costume -as ostensibly a uniform -presents a delineation and safety in roles. The rules and utilisation of these psychologies and implications shifts from world to world. In Superman, the Man of Steel is clad in bright, clean primary colours: a bold blue and red. Solid, unambiguous colours: a beacon combination that can be seen from far, that has nothing to hide. Superman's main antagonist, Lex Luthor, is generally clad in suits of black, or sometimes green and purple. The green reflects the inherently jealous nature of his relationship with Superman, who he views as a usurper of his rightful 'favourite son' position, and the purple his delusions of regality and grandeur. When Luthor wears a black suit, we recognise him as representing the homogenised, relentless nature of a very human evil: the corrupt, corporate, capitalist kind.

As a basic cultural construct, suits are inherently establishment: symbolic of authority and respectability (the earliest iteration of the formal suit was introduced by King Charles II as a uniform for men of the English court). The status of the suit has morphed from aspirational item, the donning of which would lead to the attainment of a desirable social standing via job, home, car, etc.; to a more ambiguous -and negative- icon of imposed homogenisation and repressed individuality, equated to a an idealistic and literal selling out. It's not the objectives themselves that have fallen out of favour over the years, but a questioning of the game: the methods, the system, 'the man.' From natty dressing in con capers, to the ubiquitous black-suited hoarde in a martial arts movie, the suit today reflects a colour-wheel of criminal activity, from embezzlement, to murder, and everything in between. On an intrinsic level, a suit is suspicious; it hides true intent and meaning, even as it purports to convey it. To a more simplified degree, a suit serves as shorthand for bad or evil. So it lends Luthor a sheen of credibility as a businessman whilst simulatenously rendering him dubious for being a cog of the quo (the irony of subversion). The suit, too, is a costume. Interestingly, Bruce Wayne is able to manipulate the the facade and associations of being 'just another suit' (much as Clark Kent does, albeit on a different, 'grunt' level) as the bland anonymity behind which he hides his Batman identity. He's passed over as shallow and stupid, a clueless trust-fund playboy, another in the mould of many. Wayne's real 'black suit,' the 'bat suit,' is altogether more individual and defining.

There are a few determining facets that mark the Kingpin as a 'bad guy.' He's bald,  huge in size, and wears suits -or formal attire. Both the absence of head hair as a malevolent signifier, and the aligning of fat as grotesque, speak to the distrust and fear of anyone beyond the confines of conventional standards of appearance. Fundamentally, his being bald and incredibly fat is used to induce repulsion and menace. At the same time, he's afforded a singular, undeniable physical presence. Sienkiewicz makes little attempt at realistic proportions with the Kingpin: his girth is vast, looming, and impossible; his head floating somewhere within his body like an afterthought, his face moon-like. His features are close and barely scrutable; brow, eyes, a nose and mouth. The smooth dome curvature of his head and body bring to mind a writ-to-life  Humpty Dumpty: both the widely reinforced egg personification, and the cannon to which the rhyme originally refers, are an apt fit. The Kingpin's size is a constant, overt reminder and manifestation of his power and threat, but here it is largely tempered by a sense of poise, and grace, almost. His posture and carriage are similarly held. At no point does he seems weighed down or hindered by his flesh. It bothers other people, and he is aware of this effect; acting as a mirror to their ugliness; using it to intimidate, impose. Before he does anything, seeing the Kingpin is enough; half the job done. Every fold of flesh makes him him, and the Kingpin knows this better than anyone. 

For the vast majority of the story, Kingpin is shown seated. At Vanessa's bedside, at a desk, cross-legged on the floor. He's depicted in neutral repose: sat vigil, helpless; his arms in his lap, fingers laced. Head bowed. He stands to smooth Vanessa's hair and sits back down again. There are stretches where the reader is left with him, the prone, silent figure of Vanessa, and his internal monologue. He appears vulnerable; frustrated and angry at his wife's suffering and his inability to ease it. In these quiet passages in Vanessa's soft-hued bedroom, the eye is drawn to the focal point of visual interest: Kingpin's waistcoats. Throughout, his shirts are white, the trousers black, but the waistcoats are unique: brightly coloured and vividly patterned. Expected monotony is broken up by an implication of personal style that humanises him further. The patterns on his waistcoat aren't what would be considered fashionable or stylish in a contemporary sense: this is reinforced in a scene where the Kingpin's waistcoat throws down with a floridly-papered wall in a fight for the reader's attention. Both the wallpaper and the waistcoat emphasise a homely, familial aspect: the patterns are dad-ish, possibly chosen by Vanessa. In another sequence lilac curtains pick out the purple fan design on a waistcoast. He fits with the soft furnishings; this is where he belongs.

It's worth noting the association of  the terms 'pulled together' and 'put together.' 'Put together' refers to an outwardly presentable appearance: clean, tidy. The Kingpin is well put together, which indicates he's put some effort and consideration into what he's wearing. 'Pulling together' is an internal act: psychological; to clear and compose the mind. The Kingpin's suits denote the veneer of legitimacy encoded within his criminal/business empire, but the absence of a jacket show that that is not the capacity in which he's operating here. Here, his clothes work to hold and contain him. Emotionally, he is bereft, but he wakes up, selects his shirt, trousers, waistcoat, tie, a watch, and shoes and puts on each one by one. This is what he would do on a normal day were Vanessa not ill, and although it is not a normal day, it has the potential to be. There is solace in the ritual of assembly, an assembly of self; a proverbial buttoning up (again harking to a litany of pervasive Victorian sensibilities and respectability politics, as an extension of manners and psyche). It is a modicum of control in a mentally tumultuous landscape. 'I hope we showed that an immovable object could be reduced to rubble emotionally, internally by that from which his size affords no protection, ' said Sienkiewicz.

Kingpin's dress sense also serves to provide a contrast in character to the sure, unassailable red streak of Daredevil: the visual switch from one to the other is harsh. Daredevil's impulsive cock-sureness and general attitude is epitomised in his ineffectual 'rescue' of Cheryl Mondat, and subsequent reckless assault on Kingpin. He flips and bounds from one to the other, in a brash, too-pat display of heroism that renders him the interloper in Kingpin's story, ambivalent of his incongruousness. As Matt Murdock, his white, open-collar shirt suggests the type of unappealing naivete that crosses into ignorance. In a book where the women are pawns to be either saved or desired; where Daredevil repeatedly has to remind himself that Cheryl Mondat is 'a married woman' (as he imprisons her -fruitlessly- for her safety); in which Dr. Mondat views the woman suddenly under his care as his 'only weapon' - a tool to manipulate to ensure his own survival, it is the Kingpin who emerges as the person closest to possessing some degree of awareness and enlightenment, as he comes to the realisation that he has stretched Vanessa beyond her limits. He rages and grieves. But he understands. Amidst the expanse of marbled swirls and deco florals, Kingpin draws upon the vestiges of humanity; of love, and selflessness, and he lets Vanessa go. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Alone 4: The Red Cairns: upheaval and revelation ahead

Bruno Gazzotti's and Fabien Vehlmann's understated tale of a world in which all people inexplicably and simultaneously vanish, leaving behind only a scattered smattering of children, gets its big moment in this fourth volume via a cliffhanger ending. The core group of children, Dodzi, Ivan, Leila, Camille, and Terry, return to their hometown after exploring nearby towns to no avail, and settle into making more long-term plans for survival. Their party is now bolstered by children who defected from the Shark Clan, including Alexander and Selena, the strange, dead-eyed blonde siblings who know more about the mass disappearance and its cause than they're letting on. For the moment, attention is focused around building a secure site, sustenance, and continuing the investigation into what prompted the vanishing. The growth of the group, however, makes it difficult for the children to keep tabs on exactly what each person is doing.

Thus far, Alone has handled its more dramatic elements well: abandoned theme-parks with a captive great white shark, young Nazi's, a boy who dresses himself in knives, animals breaking free from zoos. Despite these, it has never really peaked beyond the hill of belief, even in its slightly idealised approach in the children being able to treat wounds and handle weapons with ease. In The Red Cairns, the use of  psychically-controlled(?) monkeys kidnapping a baby as a vehicle to demonstrate the increasing estrangement between the core group of children is a weak plot device, and stretches credulity in a book that has strove to depict a grounded angle on the children-surviving-in-a-post-apocalyptic-scenario. For adults, such a situation is often presented as either utopia or chaos, but the children are so young, that a huddle of uncertainty and spurts of activity to establish safety or acquire tools and food, is the best they can manage. For them, there is no new-found concept of freedom or relishing in it. They want things to return to normal. They want the grown-ups back. 

The children's banding together has been tentative and fragile, and the influx of more people to care for burdens designated leader Dodzi with further responsibility. In the absence of conventional authority and guiding figures, it is left to the oldest children -those who have had the most time to soak up social mores and learned behaviours- to herd and decide on a course of action. This evolving portrayal of the older children -Dodzi, Ivan, and Leila- is particularly interesting, as each child brings with them a newly-thrust position of power coupled with the specifics of their background, experiences, and teachings, and the exploration of how that fostering impacts on their individual response to the situation.

The juxtaposition of Ivan and Leila who are steadily growing up in a 'normal' way, with the still-vulnerable Dodzi, for whom a form of maturity was catalysed by abusive circumstances, is poignant. The other children only see -and look up to- Dodzi's strength, and not the well of hurt and abuse from which it was painstakingly drawn. It's no surprise, then, that Dodzi struggles to balance their expectations with what being strong again means to both him -and them (dealing with fear and trauma once does not mean you want to do it again, or that you are better placed to do so). Meanwhile, Ivan slowly discovers new aspects to himself, whilst Leila seems to be moving from a strong and determined mindset to one of impatience and less empathy: short and sharp to anyone she considers slow and stupid, even as she wants better for the good of the group. The trajectory of her well-meaning but rash personality leaves her poised for manipulation. This sophisticated, gradual unfurling charcaterisation is a pleasure to see, as Vehlmann and Gazzotti continue to poke around in the question of what qualities we are equipping our children with.

Vehlmann and Gazzotti have deftly built the mystery of the vanishing, adding to its complexities little by little. The final page sequence here is genuinely shocking, and marks the story's first real game-changer, indicating upheaval and revelation ahead. Alone is an exceptional comic series, and one you should be reading.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Humanoids present Naoki Urasawa, Taiyo Matsumoto, Boulet, Bastien Vivès, Frederik Peeters, and more, in international comics anthology, The Tipping Point

Humanoids have announced details of an upcoming comics anthology that brings together an indisputably excellent line-up of international comics talent. The Tipping Point will be published simultaneously in Japan, France, the UK, and the US, and features new work from Naoki Urasawa, Taiyo Matsumoto, Boulet, Bastien Vivès, Frederik Peeters, Paul Pope, Katsuya Terada, Eddie Campbell, John Cassaday, Bob Fingerman, Atsushi Kaneko, Keiichi Koike, and Emmanuel Lepage, with a cover by Enki Bilal. It's title is elicited from the thematic brief presented to each author: 'to explore the key moment when a clear-cut split occurs, a mutation, a personal revolt or a large-scale revolution that tips us from one world into another, from one life to an entirely new one: the tipping point.' The stories range from slice-of-life,science-fiction, adventure, amusing asides and fantastical fables, and promise to be 'humorous, moving, perplexing, horrifying, pensive, uplifting, and hopeful.'

The official press release has Humanoids' publisher, Fabrice Giger commenting, "Humanoids, since its very inception 40 years ago, has always had a leitmotif of building bridges between American comic books, Japanese manga, and European bande dessinée to help them inspire each other—or better yet, to cross-pollinate. The Tipping Point does just that, and features some of the medium's best creators working today. It's a very unique and special book that will land—like a shimmering UFO invasion—simultaneously in different languages around the planet, unifying global fans of the sequential art form."

Humanoids have quietly been working on digital distribution and translation (a number of their titles are listed on Amazon in Japanese language, digital formats) via the launch of their digital app earlier this year, and this book looks to continue that reaching out to audiences around the worlds major comics markets. Whilst I'm thrilled at the prospect of reading new, full-colour work from so many of my favourite artists -Naoki Uraswa! Taiyo Matsumoto! Bastien Vives!- and the prospect of this book leading people to discover work beyond what they might normally read, in this day and age, there is no excuse for putting together an anthology that purports to collate 'some of the medium's best creators working today' and for it to be an all-male list. Discount arguments of quotas and merit: there is no shortage of excellent female cartoonists *in the world* and to not include a single one in a project that aims to showcase and cross-pollinate (and one titled The Tipping Point!) reflects very poorly indeed.

The Tipping Point is due for publication in January 2016.

Naoki Urasawa

Taiyo Matsumoto

Paul Pope

Thought Bubble 2015: bring all the people

My con report process goes something like this: 1) pre-con: I'll do a photo-post this time. Simple, effective; time-efficient. 2) Con duration: get caught up in it all and take about 10 crap pictures in the last hour of the day. 3) Post con: Perhaps a few annotations here and there; bullet-points to give it some essence. 4) Oh good lord this piece is 3000 words long, shows no signs of ending, and is as boring as fuck; end-me-now. If you've been reading any of my con reportage this year, you'll know the sheen overall has been wearing off a bit for me. I've been wondering what attending various cons can offer to the comics fan (and more specifically, to myself), as perusal of the internet can provide a similar exploration with the option of convenient purchase at the end. This year I decided I enjoyed the 2 cons I attended regularly (Thought Bubble and ELCAF) so much I'd branch out and visit more, to see what else was on offer. I ended up going to 4 cons in 2015 and it felt like 2 too many. The experiences simply weren't differentiated enough to make the time and money spent worthwhile; seeing the same things presented over and over. Unless you have particular goals in mind, I'm not sure that going to a number of events is necessary or fulfilling. I'm sure people are sick of hearing my vague ruminations on the subject, but it's something I've been turning around in my head for a good part of the year, as more comic events pop up in the UK.

So this is probably my last 'traditional' con report. I liked these two pieces I did for ELCAF and may keep on trying different angles, but I've never quite grasped what exactly I'm supposed to be reporting on: the saw this/did that formula seems inadequate and repetitive. 

Which is to say I wasn't sure how Thought Bubble would go. It's always been my favourite con (and easily the best one in the UK), but it's been an odd year in comics and as it grew closer, I couldn't help but wonder if it, too, would be affected by the subdued apprehension that seems to have marked 2015 in many ways.

To be honest, it felt like the festival benefited from that calmer atmosphere; a toning down that was helped along by the rainy weather on Saturday. Thought Bubble has gotten so big and successful that the last few years have built up a sense of 'where do we go from here' a plateauing of expectation -even though it doesn't need to go anywhere. In its 9th year (and my 6th of attending) it seems redundant to reiterate how good the festival is, but that it continues to sustain and improve upon that level of excellence is the more remarkable and noteworthy achievement. Thought Bubble knows what it is: a comics festival that celebrates the medium and its associated arts; where you can find people like Scott Snyder, David Aja, Emma Rios, Bengal, alongside Kate Beaton, Farel Dalrymple, Noelle Stevenson, and Joan Cornella; with collectives like Comic Book Slumber Party, and British cartoonists galore: Lucie Ebrey, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Becca Tobin, John Allison, and so many others. And that's where its strength lies: in presenting both the omnivorous comics fan and the more casual attendee with a smorgasbord of choice, whilst embracing and bringing together various areas of comics in a manner that's open and encompassing, and reflective of the breadth of contemporary comics today. It does this; it does it consistently, and it does it very, very well. Which is a testament to the superb job Martha Julian, Clark Burscough, Biz Stringer Horne, Lisa Wood et al. do in organising the festival.

On a personal level, what Thought Bubble brought home for me this year was how much cons are about people (I know this because I made a bullet-point list of con notes and one was 'people'). For all its problems, comics still does community unlike any other field: that at its best is affirming and reciprocal; nurturing and supportive. Comics is often an isolating job or passion for many, so to have that bedrock of immediate familiarity, of shared interest and understanding, is validating -and everyone needs a degree of validation beyond what you can provide yourself. I had an amazing time and that was just courtesy of talking to, and spending time with some great people.

I'm going to quickly spotlight the 3 artists/tables I came across that were new and interesting to me, and who you should follow and be aware of, and then a bullet-point list of random recollections with a jumble of pictures thrown in. I'd recommend reading unto the spotlights- the rest is waffle.

pic credit: Lucy Halsam's Twitter

Froglump: Froglump is an art collective made up of Seekan Hui, Lucy Haslam, Lizzie Houldsworth, and Hannah Jay. The four are all currently studying illustration at Falmouth University (which seems to be doing a very good job of turning out British cartoonists) and this was their first time tabling at Thought Bubble, although they've been making appearances at various art and zine fairs throughout the year. Thanks to Tom Oldham for pointing them out to me, because at the time on Sunday I was wandering glazedly, brain kaput, without actually taking in much. Their work just looks really fresh and inviting, attentively produced; it makes you want to pick it up. It's exciting to see young artists so passionate about comics and making  (and it makes me feel OLD). Seekan Hui's folding, cut-out comic, Me-Time, about a lady getting a facial was a highlight. You can find their online store here; I'm sad I missed out on those frog stickers.

Alessandra Cresio: All these spotlight tables are ones I came across on Sunday, which is when I spent most of my money. Laura and I were both incredibly enamoured with Alessandra Cresio's table, largely due to her amazing ceramics. I ended up buying these 2 pots, but the ceramic heads and that hamsa hand were giving me starry eyes (my purse was not). Memento Bento, her Japan travel diary, which I ended up circling back for, is frankly brilliant. Travel diaries are becoming a quietly popular genre within comics, and this one is a superior example; the quality of the illustrations, photo collages, paintings, sketches, colour, production. I really wanted the Ranma 1/2 zine to which she contributed a piece, but hard choices had to be made. When I go to cons I want to see and discover things and artists I won't find in shops, and this table was a perfect island of goodness.

Kaska Gazdowna and Kaska Klas: One of the 3 books I definitely wanted to pick up -along with Dan White's new Cindy & Biscuit, and The World by Valentin Seiche- was Kupala by Polish duo Kaska Gazdowna and Kaska Klas, as I'd seen something on Tumblr about it prior to the festival. Steve patiently accompanied me as I stalked around the Teepee  on Saturday, convinced that's where they were situated, but had forgotten the name of their table and therefore couldn't locate them. Luckily, I found them on the Sunday (they were actually in the Armouries Hall) when I had a 5-year old on one hand and a 3-year old in sulky stand-off 10 yards away, and managed to snag the second to last copy of Kupala before it sold out, and was planing to come back (sans nephews) for their other book, but that too, was all gone when I returned. As far as I can tell, the stuff I'm more drawn to is by Klas, who's the artist of the book, and whose Tumblr is full of lovely work. They had an attractive table, mixed with their own original work -troll girls and woodsfolk- and fan-art stickers and prints, but the quality of the work across the board was of  a really high standard.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Eleanor Davis, Kelly Kwang, Richie Pope, Rebecca Sugar make up Youth in Decline's 2016 Frontier line-up

Youth in Decline have revealed the four cartoonists making up their Frontier line-up for 2016. Listed in order of scheduled release, they are:

Launched in 2013 from Ryan Sands, the Frontier series provides artists with a showcase for their comics or illustrations via the dedicated monograph platform. To date, it's featured some of the finest contemporary artists working in the comics and illustration fields today, including  Hellen Jo, Emily Carroll, Jillian Tamaki, Sam Alden, Becca Tobin, Michael DeForge, and more. The series is notable for its curation (via Sands) and the distinctly modern feel and outlook of both that, and the work contained within. My personal highlights have been Hellen Jo's ridiculously good collection of girl gang paintings, and Jillian Tamaki's Sex Coven; an internet mythology from earlier this year. I appreciate, too, how the books are the focus of the Youth in Decline imprint in a streamlined way, with a direct and effective marketing approach and little need for anything else.

It seems the line-up for Frontier gets stronger with each passing announcement; the pages above are excerpted from the first book due for release, Davis' adult-only comic, titled BDSM. It looks like that may see Davis continue her fun and affirming sex comics after her mini, Fuck Wizards, and several related illustrations. I'm especially pleased to see Richie Pope will be creating a new, full colour comic; his work is so thoughtful and considered in a way that feels organic and sophisticated. I wrote about him being one of my artistic highlights in 2014: 'It's always gratifying to come across work that is quite distinctive in style and positively so- not only does it set the artist apart, but the reader feels as if they're getting something new from the experience. In that vein, Pope's style feels at once timeless and fresh.' I hope this book will sic more people on to his talent. Kelly Kwang's name is new to me, but a visit of her Tumblr will most likely get people quickly on board. Rebecca Sugar is, of course, the creator of the hugely popular Steven Universe cartoon show; it's been a while since she's done a comic, and I imagine there'll be a lot of interest surrounding her return to the medium.

Youth in Decline will be running their annual subscription drive from Nov 23 - Jan 10, that offers people the opportunity to buy the bundle of all four books at a discounted price, in addition to receiving subscription-only extras such as stickers, patches and so forth. Otherwise all books will be listed online closer to their allocated release dates, and available to purchase in person at whichever show they're due to debut at.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Katsuhiro Otomo to attend Angouleme 2016 as festival president, with conference, tribute exhibition and book

Katsuhiro Otomo became the first Japanese author to be awarded the Grand Prix prize at French comics festival, Angouleme, earlier this year. The award, bestowed to an author for a body of work, functions as a life-time achievement/hall of fame prize of sorts, but is unique in that the winner is given duties of president for next year's festival, in addition to their work being the subject of a large exhibition. In addition, where the winner is an artist and cartoonist -and not solely a writer- they are also requested to produce artwork for the official festival poster; you may recall Bill Watterson designed this comic strip effort for the 2015 festival after wining the Grand Prix in 2014, although he did not attend the festival itself. Today sees the revealing of Otomo's poster (pictured above), a watercolor piece evoking classical Chinese paintings and dotted with comic iconography: a mountainous Tintin, Moebius' Arzach soaring on high, the immediately recognisable red splash of Kaneda's motorbike, and more. 

Most noteworthy is the news that Otomo will also deliver a 2-hour long talk discussing the development and creation of Akira, his work, and influences, in what will no doubt be a highly anticipated event.  French publishers Glénat, in partnership with Angouleme, are organising an exhibition in tribute to Otomo; tapping 40 international cartoonists to create original art inspired by the author an his work; and publishing a special exhibition book/album collecting all the tribute contributions. Whilst the tribute exhibition sounds nice (and the Angouleme website suggests more news yet to be announced), it would be fantastic to see a show -even one of a small size- of Otomo's own work, as a more rigorous, visible celebration for both his achievement and all those attending (the opportunity to see what makes him so good in a dedicated way) - although that's no doubt dependent on the status of his originals and negotiations surrounding their travel and display.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Things We Cannot See

By Kim O'Connor

One Saturday night not so long ago I thumbed through King-Cat #75, a comic that celebrates the 25th anniversary of a series I’ve never read and the life of a cat I never knew. Crashing in on a serialized work that late in the game, I wasn’t convinced it would (or even should) feel like a standalone work of art. I also thought there was a real chance it would be bad. It’s not that I’m skeptical of John Porcellino’s talent. (I liked The Hospital Suite.) But let’s be honest: the death of a pet is a shaky dramatic premise. It’s gutting, for sure, but at the same time it’s not quite a legitimate reason to miss work. When a subject carries weight, but not gravitas, there’s a lot of room for the story to skew maudlin or self-indulgent.

As it turns out, King-Cat #75 is deeply flawed, and it is also very good. What’s interesting is that it isn’t good in spite of its flaws. It’s good because of them.

The star of this comic is Porcellino’s cat, Maisie, and the artist does an incredible job of endearing her to readers straightaway.

Key to her characterization is not just her sweetness, but also her idiosyncratic relationship with Porcellino—their little routines and in-jokes.

He also provides a good mix of details about Maisie’s personality, describing peculiarities (her love of beans and pineapple) alongside traits (like volatility) that will sound familiar to anyone who’s ever had a cat. I think the formula is that cats are one part eccentric…

One part mystery…

And two parts Everycat.

Reading about Maisie, I thought about many cats I’ve known: Renzo, who guards the entrance of his IKEA play tent with the air of a warlord; Bosey, who spent his days chirping at birds through the French glass doors leading out to my mother’s patio; Monkey, who has burrowed like a ferret inside my friend Fran’s couch; and Eddie, who sits on top of other cats when he wants to steal their patch of sunlight. But mostly I thought about Tippy.

When I was a freshman in college, my old friend Wendy turned up at my dorm room with two kittens from the shelter in our hometown. One was for her, and one was Tippy. I can’t imagine why she thought a kitten would make a good present for a person whose home was half of a glorified storage closet. Milner Hall was strictly no-pets, and I couldn’t have cared less. Like a pony but less fancy, Tippy was an impractical fantasy gift in the best possible way. He fit in my palm and slept in my hair.

In his essay “The Youth in Asia,” David Sedaris observes our tendency to use the occasion of a pet’s passing to mourn the passage of time itself. “With the death of a pet, there’s always that urge to crowd the parentheses and string black crepe paper over an entire 10- or 20-year period,” he writes. “The end of my safe college life, the last of my 30-inch waist, my faltering relationship with my first real boyfriend. I cried for it all.”

Porcellino’s frenetic attempt to “crowd the parentheses” is palpable in this comic. The pacing problem I noted in my review of The Hospital Suite is much, much worse in King-Cat #75—to great effect. Maisie bears witness to a lot of Porcellino’s life in these 48 pages. We watch him go through three major relationships (including the dissolution of at least one marriage), a near-fatal illness, the death of his father, and too many cross-country moves to count—and through it all, Maisie is by his side, or in his lap.

Watching Porcellino and his dad drive to Denver, I thought of the time my parents helped me move to Chicago. I was crammed in with the pet taxi in the tiny backseat of my father’s truck for the 11-hour drive. I had an unspeakable hangover, and Tippy cried the whole fucking way.

I’d been living in England until the software company where I worked laid off a third of us. Tippy and I had spent a few months home in Tennessee, and now he was coming with me to graduate school. I hadn’t yet met the guy I’d be sharing an apartment with, but when I’d sent him a picture of the cat, he joked that Tippy should pay rent. I was sad and worried about a lot of things at that time in my life, but in that moment I decided everything would be all right.

When I was a child I thought of adulthood as this static thing that involved wearing perfume and having the same flush-faced couple over for dinner every month or two. From that vantage I could not yet see how, in the fullness of time, things change. From real personal upheaval to the slow process of watching old friends turn into strangers, I spent many years of my adult life vaguely worried I was doing everything wrong. I’ve since come to realize that, much like the people in Jurassic Park build a precarious world around the lie that dinosaurs aren’t dangerous, part of adult life is a sort of low-grade pretending that humans aren’t fickle and fragile. They die or they marry or move; they have kids or drug problems or demanding jobs. Inevitably, there will be people you care about who will, without warning, peer out at you from photos like missing persons off the back of a milk carton. It’s not okay, but it’s fine. It’s part of it.

King-Cat #75 captures the secret transience of adulthood, particularly the period of personal upheaval and disorientation that is, for many of us, our twenties. It captures, too, the way in which a pet—a devoted sidekick that loves you unconditionally—helps smooth those rocky transitions. When Tippy died, I remember thinking how he’d vetted every boy I’d ever loved and remained, unlike them, a shared point of reference for all my friends from my hometown, college, and Chicago—the only creature who had straddled those three versions of my life.           

Maisie died in 2007, which means that King-Cat #75 was crafted with real emotional distance. This story’s lack of tidiness, then, seems like an aesthetic choice more than a byproduct of grief. Porcellino’s memories feel fresh, even raw, but they are not unconsidered. This combination is rare in autobio, where much work falls on either end of the spectrum between fussy and deliberately unrefined.

Even beyond autobio, the mechanics of memory is a concept in comics that’s easily over-or undercooked. I found Chris Ware's Building Stories to be a charming and elegiac reading experience. But I remain unconvinced by the assertions—by both critics and Ware himself—that it was a comic that replicates the experience of human memory. Building Stories works on a lot of levels, but exo-consciousness or whatever you wish to call it isn’t one of them. Our memories are dumb, sentimental, blunt-force instruments; they aren’t nuanced or bloodless, even if the “truth” behind them is.

There is a world of difference between exploring memory as an intellectual concept and the visceral experience of having one. A few artists—Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel—walk the line. For example, in Are You My Mother? and Fun Home, Bechdel used her penchant for cold analysis to forge an emotional connection with her parents. Years ago, during an interview, we had an exchange I often think about.

KO: Maybe what appears to someone else as distancing yourself from life is actually bringing you in closer?
AB: I think so. I feel like that’s kind of what this whole book [Are You My Mother?] is about, this very cerebral detached effort to get in touch with my feelings, to express love, which are things I can’t do easily in a direct way. I have to do them through these contortions of memoir.

Porcellino strikes me as Bechdel’s opposite; his expressions of love are plain and direct. Like Phoebe Gloeckner, he makes aggressively processed comics that come across as unmediated, almost untouched, because of the vivid way in which they convey lived experience. Often, autobio ends up being about process—all those layers of fraught consciousness about how to best convey an experience and the cost of putting it on the page. With Porcellino and Gloeckner, those struggles are invisible to us (which is not to say they don’t exist). These artists aren’t invested in their own cleverness; they don’t ask readers to think about their stories so much as to feel them.
That experience of “being” Porcellino carries all the way through the final design element of King-Cat #75, his hand-lettered note on the back cover.

There is no period, no resolution, no satisfaction of the full stop. Like the process of grief itself, the note is as open-ended. Though Maisie died some eight years before the comic was published, Porcellino still finds one of her hairs from time to time—a reminder that’s small, unexpected, and affecting, much like his note. 

Anyone in autobio worth their salt can show their story. I think John Porcellino’s work is about the things we cannot see. I know that sounds vague. Having ugly-cried one Saturday night not so long ago for the death of his Maisie and the Tipster and I guess the inevitable demise of every cat I’ve ever known, I can only tell you it’s real. The small earthly act of sitting on my couch with someone’s stapled-together comic. A feeling life is big enough to hold who we were, who we are now, and maybe who we’ve yet to be.

Comics shelfie: Yumi Sakugawa

A new month, a new comics shelfie entry. Today, the excellent Yumi Sakugawa (Never Forgets, I Thin I Am In Friend Love With You) talks us through her bookshelves and a selection of works that were of significance to her. Sakugawa is one of my favourite cartoonists (and yes, I have a lot of favourite cartoonists, because we live in a comics-talent rich time, and I have a lot of love to give), largely because of her ability to run a wide gamut in subject; discussing art, creativity, identity, the self, popular culture, relationships, and more, in a holistic manner that's both easily engaging and meaningful. I like how the form and style of her comics is a cleaner, refined iteration of a traditional alt-comics method, whilst the content remains distinctly contemporary. But over to Yumi for the main business:

'I just moved into a small apartment earlier this year so I had to let go of a lot of books. I don’t have the physical space of having a huge comic collection for the moment, so all of my comics need to fit within a few rows and share space with my art books, novels, nonfiction, self-help literature, travel books and other genres of books. In my home office, I also have this neglected to-read pile of comics I’ve accumulated from the last several comic festivals I’ve attended that I probably won’t have time to dive into until the end of this year. I’ve been reading Japanese manga since I was a kid, but I didn’t really get into indie comics until late high school. Over a decade later, I regret letting go of my complete Sailor Moon manga collection.

I honestly thought of cleaning up the bookshelf more properly before taking the photo, but then decided that that would be an inaccurate snapshot of my state of mind right now.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Oni Press present first title from open submissions: 'Space Battle Lunchtime' by Natalie Riess [exclusive]

Oni Press have announced the first project to be green-lit from their open submissions earlier this year: Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Riess. An 8-issue mini-series scheduled to begin publication in May 2016, Space Battle Lunchtime is the story of a subject close to many peoples hearts: food! And to be enticingly more precise: food in the context of the simmerings and tensions of an intergalactic cooking show, as an amateur pastry chef Peony ends up as the sole Earthling contestant on a popular televised cooking competition. Space Battle Lunchtime is Riess' first published, print work; she is also the author of fantasy, monster web-comic Snarlbear. Comics & Cola is pleased to present an exclusive look at some preliminary pitch pages and character designs from Space Battle Lunchtime, alongside an interview with Oni Press and book editor, Robin Herrera, discussing the submission process in further detail, and a chat with cartoonist Natalie Riess.

There was quite a bit of interest and curiosity when you opened submissions. What was the process like overall? 

Robin Herrera: As we were planning out the logistics, we talked a bit internally about how many pitches we thought we’d get. We really had no idea what to expect, but figured that 1000 would be a lot for us to get through. So you can imagine our surprise (and small amount of panic) when the Submissions window had closed and we’d gotten 2500 submissions.

So, it was a lot of work. As many submitters probably already know, we had to change our response time from 1 month to 2 months, and then from 2 months to an additional 6-8 weeks.
The process was pretty fluid - Fridays were our scheduled submission review days, since they tend to be a bit more relaxed. I actually had a very busy May, going first to Savannah for SCAD’s Editor’s Day, and then to Denver Comic Con, so I missed out on going through some of the early submissions.

If any submission got two “no” votes from any two editors, it was considered rejected. A “no” and a “yes” vote would require a third editor to step in and be the tiebreaker. So any given submission was read by at least two editors. In rare cases, a single editor could read a piece and escalate it so that all of Editorial had to read it, and we’d vote on it from there.

How many submissions did you receive, and how many got shortlisted?
RH: We received over 2500 submissions, though this includes a few repeat submissions. This also includes people submitting just as writers, or as writers with an artist, or as just artists, or as colorists. Of the artist and colorist submissions, we shortlisted 53 of those. Of the full pitches (someone actually pitching a comic), we shortlisted 42. Space Battle Lunchtime is the first contracted book from our submissions, though we are talking with other people about their books still. I can’t comment on how many people we’re talking to since we’re not quite done, but we plan to make an announcement of everything picked up from Submissions.

As an editor, can you talk us through how you would review a submission- what you are/n't looking for?
RH: First I’d open up the submission. In art submissions, I take everything in all at once and form my first opinion. Sometimes, a submission will fail right there. Anything that’s just pencils (we asked for final inks), or does not have a clear grasp of comics yet (panels not planned out or badly rendered) gets an immediate pass.

On second look, I’ll concentrate on a number of things: is the storytelling clear from one panel to the other? Is the submission composed mainly of one type of shot? Are there backgrounds, or is it all talking heads? Does every panel work to make the story stronger? Does the character anatomy make sense? And lots of other smaller things.

Some pitches would have all the technical stuff down, but the art would still need work. And some pitches had a gorgeous art style, but didn’t have the storytelling chops. For pitches, either with or without art, I’d skim the cover letter, looking for a little bit about the person who sent us the pitch and whether they’d been published before. Sometimes people would put a line or two in about their pitch, which I appreciated because it’d give me some context for what I was about to read. The cover letter really is your first chance to make a great first impression, and yes, we DO read them.

Next up: the title. Technically, that’s the first thing I read, I suppose. For the most part I wouldn’t make judgements based on the title, even if a title seemed like something that wasn’t going to be in our wheelhouse. Once I hit the logline, though - that’s where the judging starts. :)

In a logline, I’m looking for something short, sweet, and ideally with a little personality. It should tell me about the main character and the stakes, as well as the genre, and that’s it. I know it’s hard to fit into one line, but this is one of the most important parts of the pitch. It tells me whether someone can follow directions and how well they can boil their pitch down to a single line.

Next up is the summary and outline. This is where I can find out if this is really something that would fit in at Oni Press. I’m looking for story beats, character development, rising action, and a great climax and resolution. I’m not looking for extensive asides about characters - including character’s backstory isn’t going to make them automatically compelling. That should be done by telling us what the character wants and what is stopping them from getting what they want.

Finally, there’s the script. If the outline’s not working for me or I think it’s not something we’d be able to make work, I’ll still skim the script. But if everything’s working out, I’ll read through the script more closely. What I’m looking for in the script is pretty simple: dialogue that doesn’t sound forced, clear panel breakdowns, and a good balance of panels per page. I’m also looking to make sure there’s not too much action in too little panels.

Sometimes there’s art included with the pitches. Sometimes it’s a deal breaker. Bad art can definitely kill a good pitch. However, a bad pitch can’t be saved by good art. Both have to work well together.

Have there been any issues that you've felt you're going to address in November?
RH: Actually, yes! We had a couple of odd bugs in our submissions guidelines, so we’ll be fixing those. (They originally asked people to include a synopsis in two different places, which was unnecessary.) There’s also the time commitment - now that we know what to expect, we can let people know up front how long it will take to respond to their submissions. We’d probably need at least an extra 30 days of response time for every 500 submissions. We’ve talked internally about ways to streamline the pitching process, too - a way that would make things easier for us to read and easier for people to put together. The current submission guidelines work very well if we like everything about a pitch, but definitely don’t work as well when we see something that we know right away isn’t thematically for us.

We won't be doing Open Submissions again until sometime next year - it's probably gonna be an annual thing for us, not twice a year like we'd first thought.

Does Oni publish from submissions and an exiting pool of contacts only, or do you keep a lookout for anything that catches your eye and approach people as well?
RH: From our open submissions, we do plan to publish some of the pitches, and we do have contacts who pitch us regularly (or maybe not-so-regularly, depending on the person!). But we are always on the lookout for anything that catches our eye.

I read a lot of comics in my free time, so I keep an eye out for potential creators that way. I also meet people at conventions, either by walking by their tables or because they approach me. And I’ll occasionally come across someone either on twitter or on Tumblr whom I’ll approach. (Only if they’ve got a link somewhere to their sequential samples, though!)

Are there any other submissions -apart from Natalie's- that have been successful, or you may be considering?
RH: There are! I can’t announce any yet, as Natalie’s is the first that’s actually been contracted, and there are some that are still going through an editorial process before they’re moved up the ladder.

What was it about Natalie's submission that made it appealing/stand out?
RH: Natalie’s submission would be one to study for sure. I’d declared, in an interview early on (and maybe even on our submission site?) that I would love to get a cooking competition book. We were pitched quite a few, and a couple were even shortlisted, but Natalie’s was the most cohesive, by far. I also really liked Natalie’s logline - I felt like it had been written just for me! “Space Battle Lunchtime is a comic about a young pastry chef from Earth who enters an intergalactic TV cooking competition. Think of it as a delicious combo of goofy science fiction, shoujo manga and food network.”

While we don’t get the stakes until the outline, we get the genre, the basic plot, and the general tone of the comic. (ALSO: the words “goofy,” “shoujo manga,” “intergalactic,” and “food network” are like crack to me.)

The first thing that caught my eye was actually the art. One of our summer interns, Bess (who is now working as an Editorial Assistant here), was actually the first to spot Natalie’s submission, and she immediately sent it my way and told me to look at it. So of course I just immediately scrolled to the pages so I could make a snap judgement. :) But Natalie had, in her pages, exactly the kind of thing we were looking for. Her art is accessible and gorgeous, she had great storytelling, her shots were varied without being distracting - even her colors sang. We’d told people on tumblr that it was a better idea to just submit inks for art, and not to worry about colors or letters, but Natalie did both and she did them both beautifully.

So I suppose it stood out mainly because it was the submission I’d been waiting for. The perfect blend of food, comics, excitement, and fantastic art. Looking back over Natalie’s submission, I also think she did a great job of being concise and not murdering us with too much text. She put in exactly what we asked for. She didn’t waste our time over-explaining things, she just let the piece speak for itself. Sometimes, that's the best thing you can do!

Natalie- congratulations on your new book! How far along was the book competed when you pitched it to Oni?
Natalie Riess: Not very far- When I had the idea and decided I wanted to make it a comic, I was thinking of pitching it to Hiveworks. It was too short for what they wanted, so SBL became a side project that I thought I might pitch to a print company eventually, but didn’t put a lot of effort into getting finished. I had a small stack of character drawings, a rough outline and list of cute jokes when Oni put out the call for submissions. When I submitted the pitch, I had a solid plot outline, some test pages and a much bigger stack of character drawings.

What was it about Oni that made it a good fit for Space Battle Lunchtime?
NR: I originally intended SBL to be a short graphic novel instead of a miniseries, and I knew Oni from the GNs they publish. I’d also seen a few webcomics folks do work for/with them, and I work in webcomics, so I thought it would be a good place to show my work. Fitting the story into exactly 22-page installments has taught me a lot about pacing and writing that I didn't really have to worry about before. The story hasn't changed at all, but I feel like this format helps me be a lot more organized than I have been in the past.

How long after you pitched did you find out Oni were interested in publishing your book?
NR: It was a couple of months, at least. I was expecting to get rejected, but when Robin emailed me saying they were interested in publishing my comic it was kind of like a miracle. Hearing that a publisher whose comics heavily influenced me as a teen liked and wanted to publish my work was really exciting!

Did you have any special method in continually thinking up new and wondrous food concoctions for Peony and the others to cook (especially as its beyond the realms of 'human' food)?
NR: I picked out a sort of theme for each character’s cooking and tend to stick with that (cute desserts, steaks, artsy presentation, etc. etc.). To make it more otherworldly I add cool-looking made up ingredients and shapes to them (alien eyeballs are a personal favorite for this, haha). I’m not a food expert and I’m still learning, but so far I think I’ve made up some good-looking stuff.

Lots of people in the UK and beyond were gripped by the Great British Bakeoff this year- are there any particular cooking shows you enjoy watching?
NR: Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen are fun, and I started watching Cupcake Wars as research for this comic and that’s also pretty cute.
Robin Herrera: One of my favorite cooking shows is this show called Sweet Genius. It's the weirdest cooking battle show on TV. I think it's cancelled, sadly, but it involved a very strange chef with a sweet tooth judging people's confections. Good stuff.

What was the most fun part in creating Space Battle Lunchtime?
NR: Hmmmm. Just drawing it is a lot of fun. I really like the characters I’ve made up for this story- they’re cute and fun to draw and fun to write. I used to worry a lot about my work being hammy or silly but on this project I’m just going for it. There’s betrayal, there’s secrets, there’s love triangles, there’s gratuitous motorcycle chases. It’s going to be good and I hope everyone else enjoys looking at it as much as I have been enjoying making it.

Catching up with Peow! Studio as they launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund 2016 slate [interview]

I've been an advocate of Swedish comic publishers, Peow! Studio, since coming across their books in early 2013, almost a year after their founding. It was in October 2013 that I first interviewed Patrick Crotty, Elliot Alfredius and Olle Forsloff (all of whom are artists in their own right), to discuss Peow's conception, and their hopes and plans for its future. The 2 years since have seen the imprint grow noticeably in visibility and popularity- tabling at a range of cons in Canada, North America, and the UK, as people becoming increasingly aware of their books and carefully-selected stable of cartoonists. It's not surprising that a clear aesthetic vision coupled with a synergistic attention to production -paper, ink, printing quality, etc.- (and the not insignificant decision to publish all their books in English) has resulted in a dedicated following and award nominations. I caught up with Patrick Crotty to talk about how things have been going, and what's changed, as Peow launch a Kickstarter to fund their (frankly amazing-looking) 2016 line-up.

It's been a while since we last chatted; can you tell us broadly what the past 2 years have been like; what's changed; how you've developed; any particular highlights or challenges? 
The past 2 years have been good. Elliot has a dog now. We've made a bunch of books and we've been travelling to festivals. For us, it feels like nothing really has changed, but is has. Mainly, we are making more books, and longer books. And they are selling out faster? Yeah, but also, for us as editors - that part has changed a lot. When we started, and we got to work with someone, we let them do 100% whatever they wanted because we were so happy just to be working with them, but now.. we ... are a bit more pushy, haha. What I mean is, we think a lot about how the books are written and how the panels and artwork are drawn.

We are more forward about giving critique and feedback and asking the artists to change things to make the general flow of the books feel better, because in the end, it's better for everyone, and its really important for making a good book! And some books we are reaaaallly proud of. Disa Wallander's book- Elliot did an amazing job helping arrange that book and hey it got nominated for Best Comic [Ignatz award] so that's nice. 

But going to festivals has been nice, we now have friends all over the place thanks to our books! And its cool because we know there are some people that get like every book we release and it's so fun because we send out the mail ourselves so we get excited and are like "OMG this person ordered again what a great customer lets put bonus stuff in here!" 

Has the progression been what you expected?
For us the progress has been a big surprise. When we started out, we didn't have a plan about how many books we wanted to make or where we were going, we just wanted to make books that we wanted to read, and make the books that nobody else was making at the time. But I think we've been reaching out to more and more people faster than we thought. We always feel like we aren't making enough books, because more often then not, our books are getting sold out in less than a year a year after printing. Like Disa's book, when we got nominated for the Ignatz, we only had 12 copies left of the book. So .. just things like that. It's hard to tell when we are living in a place that doesn't really do comics the way other countries do, we cant talk and compare to other Swedish publishers because we aren't even in the same loops.

Where are you today as a publisher - what are the things you're thinking about, your goals?
At the beginning of this year we had 3 goals. Make an offset book, Make a book that was over 100 pages, and get publishing rights to a foreign book. We did two of those three goals. Getting the foreign publishing rights might be something for 2017, maybe trying to do some fun French books or manga, because we are dorks. But for 2016, we want to do one hardcover book. 

And now, we really want to work with making books full time, and just be self sufficient on books. It's tough, but we've worked out a plan so we have tangible goals for how much we actually need to make and sell of each book. It feels so weird and business-y but... you really need to think about money A LOT, even if it feels like a weird thing to think about. But you gotta if you wanna keep on going. We don't get any state funding, and we don't have any investors backing us, or a rich dad that can help us out with infinity money, but somehow, we've "made it" and our print runs are on par or bigger than most Scandinavian comic publishers. 

We are doing a good thing, even if we don't know exactly how to get the money thing 100% right. But that's what we are really trying to do now, because we really love making books and .... well.. I love like every single person we have worked with, and I want them to succeed because *damn* we are all just barely getting by, but I really want that to change so that all of us can live like "regular people". We have always prioritized paying our artists, and ... it would be nice to be able to have enough money to be like "hey. we can pay you xxxxxxx, work on a book for a year because we believe in you "... That's the goal. 

But we've been doing this for three years now, for free..., but if we continue, we have to do it seriously, so that we can take our parents out to dinner. We need to feel more economically safe. That's really important.

Something people may not know about Peow! is that you also run an actual physical shop, selling comics and offering printing services. What does the shop offer/provide you as a publisher/business?
Once we got this new office space, the one that is not in a basement, we thought we could do something fun with the new space and start selling books that you couldn't get anywhere else. We only kinda wanted more small press stuff,  like things you couldn't get at the other comic book stores here . There aren't too many comic shops in Stockholm, and we don't want to steal customers from them by selling the same books, so we were just like.. lets have fun stuff we like. The shop was never made for profit, and its actually just a fun way to show the books we like and share them with people in Sweden, but its not really... a ... bookstore, hahah. Again, we had the extra space and we were like "lets have books here!!" But we've had some really fun customers from all over the world that have gotten stuff, and it's been nice to share our faves with people here because they don't know anything hahaha. 

But the printing service, that's been a big deal for us for a long time! Doing print jobs for people is Sweden has generally funded our day-to-day baseline costs, covering  the studio rent, internet, paper etc. basic stuff. 

We really are gonna give this one big big push to step up our game. We want to be able to make books as seriously as we can. We're moving over all of our printing to offset. It's kinda funny because when we started out we started reading Nobrow books and were like "we should do this". Haha! We just got our first offset book back, and its great. It even has that awesome "new book smell!!". 

You're moving from risograph (which I think people associate quite strongly with your books) to offset printing- what's the impetuous behind that?
The riso has been a great thing for us. But. having a riso in Sweden is ... not so good. Anything riso related here is about 2 - 4 times more expensive than compared to the US or UK. The official (and only) riso supplier has stopped offering support for our machine. They can tell us what is wrong, but if something breaks, there is no way to repair it. We had a wake up call recently when some parts broke in the middle of printing Bio-Whale and we had a few days of death-grip stress and that's when we decided that we don't wanna be dependent on riso.

At the same time when we were at ELCAF it felt like 90% of the stuff there was riso printed. It's just.. over-saturated, and it's come to this point where it all kinda looks the same. Everybody has the same colors, and it's not as exciting as it used to be. We want play with different colors, and papers, and sizes. When I see that stuff, it makes me feel that riso isn't the thing that attracts me to a book. What's really important -for real important- is just good book design and great comics. That's what we want to be making. It doesn't mean we will stop using the riso. We will use it when we feel that it suits the project. Going into offset, we still have a riso mindset, about how we can use spot colors to play with our books to give them a feel that shouldn't be connected to any type of "printing process", it should just feel like a Peow book, not just a "riso" book.

Lastly, it's for larger print runs. Our books are getting longer and our editions are getting bigger, and it takes more and more time to print each book on the riso, and in the binding process, we would loose up to 100 books!  We really felt with offset, it takes so much off our shoulders, and it's fun because we are learning new things. it feels really fun actually! Reprinting books is gonna be an actual possibility now.

How big are you hoping for these print runs to be?
Aah, this is funny, I don't think most publisher talk about print numbers very openly. Our upcoming books are all gonna have a baseline print run of 1000, which is gonna be our new standard print run size. 

We've heard it's more than what most Swedish publishers are making. But I've also heard that even more well known US publishers have print runs less than that but we never here directly from someone. Print runs to me feel like a very secret thing that people don't like to talk openly about. It's like saying how long your penis is or something. Publishers might be nervous to share because ... even if you make really nice books, maybe they don't sell, or you don't wanna look small?? Or you are comparing those print runs to mega best sellers that constantly are being reprinted and feel bad.. Anyways, our goal is eventually doing min. 3k of each book. Give us 2 years huh. Help make this happen !!!

Can you tell us a bit about the books and authors that you're hoping to publish as a result of the Kickstarter?
Guillaume Singelin is coming out with a big sketchbook with us. We've been courting him for a LOOONG TIME and all those monkey and spaceman sketches he posted, the Space Quest stuff, were originally going to be for a real book with us! But it never happened because we couldn't get a good story worked out. But we kept in touch, and then PTSD gets mentioned and we are like.... WHAT? But it's so far off, 2017. We don't wanna steal him from his work, so we thought of what we can do and we are super happy to make this because there is a good chunk of brand new stuff, and it'll be our biggest book and... I mean.. It's Gui, he's the best!

Wai Wai's  book is for me one of the books I've been so so excited about. I read her Japan travel diary and thought it was amazing. She has this great style of being super tidy and organized but still drawing in this naive style that I really, really love. I had this idea that it would be so fun to have a detective book in this style. A detective story in the vein of Benson's Cuckoos, where it's soft and easy, simple mystery, or Masahiko Matsumoto's The Man Next Door (Breakdown Press). That old, compact, rental manga mystery. So we're working on that, and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope other people will pick it up, because I don't thing she's a well known in the US, but ... dang, its like the best mystery book that's gonna be out in 2016!

I am gonna be working on Internal Affairs 3. Yes. I have been working on it, but now I'm gonna make it come true. It's gonna be a big big book and there are gonna be some very long action sequences where I'm aiming for the knife fight from Appleseed.

Mathilde Kitteh (who did MGCL_GRL) and Luca Oliveri are working on a 2-in-1 shojo book. It's a sci-fi romance in the Wrecked Ship universe that Valentin Seiche created. For the longest time, all of us at Peow have wanted to make a romance book, and it's finally happening. Luca has a fun lighthearted story that is.. kinda.. sexy even. But his style is so nice, and it's almost like reading a book that was sketched out in Ghibli style. I keep on wanting to say "whisper of the heart". It's beautiful! Kiki is supposed to have a "dark" story, but from what I've read so far, its some of the best funny writing I've ever read and I had real human eye tears from reading it. 

And Mackenzie Schubert is working on a fantasy story about haunted fish that put people in a trance and lead them away from villages. Its' very weird. I want to call it fantasy, but it's touching in areas of fantasy/scifi that I have never seen before so it's hard to pinpoint. Mackenzie is one of the most exciting concept artists that we've come across and he is constantly blowing our heads off with really out-there knights/mechs. You should definitely check his work out, because it's hard to explain in text. But it's very very fun to see what he is doing because it surprises us so much.

Like many people, I use Kickstarter as a pre-order service, and am often put off because you never know if and when you'll get the books you back. What are you doing to make sure everything is delivered on time and things run as smoothly as possible?
Well, we need to get fully funded to make this happen. If we do get fully funded, then its green lights all the way. The books are well underway and it's just a matter of being able to pay for everything. We've been making books for 3 years, so it's common territory.  

What happens if you don't make your goal? Will the books still be published?
If we don't make the goal, then we will still make the books, but the release dates may be pushed forward a lot and we will be out with a lot of money. Also our future plans for books might be a bit weird. It would mean the artists will be paid after the book has launched (as opposed to giving them an advance payment). I really don't want this to happen, but.. yeah. If we don't make the goal we'd be pretty bummed.

You can pledge to the Peow! Kickstarter here