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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Daniel Clowes opening at the MCA in Chicago this Saturday

The Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes exhibit opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago this Saturday, June 29.  As part of the opening festivities for the show, Dan Clowes will be in conversation with curator Susan Miller at 1 pm on Saturday June 26. She will engage Clowes in a conversation about his practice, his connections to Chicago, and the genesis of the exhibition. A book signing will follow the talk.

You can reserve tickets now and people, you should! Mr. Clowes is an interesting character with lots of fascinating insights into the history of alternative comics and comics' intersection with pop culture. That Seth & Dan tour was some of the most smartest and funniest comics talk I've heard in years.

If you can't make it this Saturday, don't fret: the exhibit will be up until October 13, and to sweeten the deal, Modern Cartoonist has been expanded significantly from the original show presented at the Oakland Museum of California. New pieces include two illustrations of Chicago as seen through Clowes's eyes: this twenty-foot-tall mural and the lead photo. Chicago Mag got him to annotate it, and boy is it neat to get the inside scoop on the landmarks of Dan's Chicago.

In all, the exhibit presents more than 125 original drawings and artifacts from Clowes's career, including ink and Zipatone drawings, gouache paintings, books, and more. So get down there, y'all! As for me, I'll be here, trying to find legitimate excuses to get to Chicago before the exhibit closes.

NPR on Rutu Modan and Guy Delisle

Look folks, it's not every day we get to brag about TWO of our books being profiled and excerpted on NPR Books in three days - let's bask in it a bit.

On Tuesday, Glen Weldon wrote about Rutu Modan's The Property, and I think he really nailed the essence of what makes Rutu's work (and especially The Property) so great:

"Narratively, Modan's work... lives in the realm of the indistinct, the undefined and the hotly disputed. Her clean and often brightly colored illustrative style serves in part to lift the fog of war, allowing us to see these conflicts, be they emotional or military, with new eyes. Modan delights in bringing the subtlest emotional shadings to vivid and often comical life on the page [in this] wryly funny and ultimately wrenching graphic novel."

He goes on to talk about the way Rutu uses these beautiful silent sequences:
"Sequences like this, which encourage the reader to linger before turning the page, are useful, given The Property's pacing and plotting, which depend on a comedy of errors and assumptions — characters are forever refusing to divulge everything they know, causing other characters to leap to conclusions that cause still other characters to misconstrue what they've learned and so on and on until the great, final-act reckoning."

Today, he follows up with a review of Guy Delisle's A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting:
"Guy Delisle is the real thing: a skilled and wryly funny Quebecois cartoonist. User's Guide is a deceptively light series of gags on the subject of one well-intentioned man's shortcomings as a father... but Delisle deftly contrasts his cartoon avatar's self-involved and self-satisfied actions with their lingering effects on his guileless, po-faced kids. The brevity of each vignette highlights Delisle's acute sense of timing."

Click through to read short excerpts from The Property and A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting on NPR.

Finally, since Canada Day is coming up fast, let me take this opportunity to share this short review and excerpt of one of the book's Canadian-centric vignettes on Boing Boing, where Mark Frauenfelder says: "A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting is a funny and truthful book about being a parent... 190 pages worth of light-hearted stories about [Guy Delisle's] relationship with his adorable, smart kids."
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A piece of CAKE

Look guys, I really hesitated over the pun options for this title, and I got nervous... let's just move on.

I spent a long weekend in Chicago for the recent Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE). Thanks to Neil and Max and Edie and everyone else at CAKE who made the show run so smoothly! 

Friday night kicked off with a signing at the wonderful Quimby's. I love Quimby's for that vibe it has (in common with the Beguiling, and maybe Atomic Books?) of being chock-full of stuff you maybe thought went out of print ten years ago, but somehow simultaneously chock-full of fascinating stuff that you've never heard of before.

Here are Patrick Kyle, Lisa Hanawalt, and Michael DeForge signing away, with Ginette Lapalme in the background. Their signing was great - there were many old and new friends wandering around the aisles of Quimby's, and I definitely saw a few trembling teens hand Lisa and Michael their books, which always fills me with comics ♥. Afterwards there was a comic art battle. I wasn't entirely sure how that worked before, and maybe I'm still not sure? But it's probably because I was busy gossiping with...

beloved pals Dan Zettwoch and Jessica Campbell! This was my first show with Jessica in oh, say, 11 months, and it was so nice to spend the weekend hanging out with this fine lady in her new town.

The next day, bright and early, Jess and I hit the Center on Halsted, which is a gorgeous community centre on Chicago's North Side. The show was held on the third floor in a big auditorium, and I found it to be really well-curated, with a huge selection of local and non-local folks whose work I was not familiar with and was excited to discover.

The first order of business was an interview with Oak Parkian Chris Ware, hosted by Jake Austen (Roctober Magazine). Here's Max Morris from CAKE introducing. I think one of the highlights for me was when Jake asked Chris how he reconciles having a "Leave It To Beaver kind of life" with (maybe?) being a cartoonist, and Chris's answer included "Does it still qualify as a Leave It To Beaver life if regularly, at breakfast, my wife tells me 'I'm gonna stab you in the fucking throat?'"

But seriously, that conversation was filled with insightful gems about art-making and hilarious non-sequiturs, and the crowd (myself included) loved it.

After their panel, Chris and Jake came by the D+Q table for a short signing, while Jake's son plowed through the Enfant titles we'd brought with us.

And here's Lisa Hanawalt busily selling out of copies of My Dirty Dumb Eyes. Those books went fast!

After a hard day's work, it was time to relax on a patio.

Our server (who also turned out to be Secret Acres' AirBnB host) was amazing - when Lisa told him she was from East Palo Alto and that was where Dangerous Minds was filmed, he said "Sickening." in the most perfect tone of disdain imaginable. After that, Jess and he wound up on the same bus, talked for 45 minutes straight, and I think by now they must be BFFs.

Following a round of grapefruit digestifs, Jessica, Lisa, and I went back to our own Air BnB and renamed all of the fish/invertebrates in our host's *saltwater* aquarium after different cartoonists. Then we headed out to the comics concert, where we missed all the music, but found the incredible rooftop view and the nearby diner.

Sunday morning started off a little sleepy, which meant I got to walk around.

Lisa, having sold out of books, went around defacing other people's comics and causing havoc. Exhibit A: Michael DeForge's Very Casual

And when she grew bored with that, she headed to the zoo and found the ponies. Check out the fringe on that guy!

Meanwhile, back at the Center...

I swung by the Huizenga/Zettwoch/Mardou/May table, and admired the book version of Amazing Facts & Beyond. Keen eyes may spy a doll in the bottom left corner.

NBD, just a Glenn Ganges doll! He was, in fact, the Last Glenn Standing. The fellas told me they'd tried to convince Chris Ware to buy boxers Glenn instead of pants-wearing Glenn, and had utterly failed. Some battles are not winnable.

Right across the aisle, I spotted future D+Q author / current Librairie employee Julie Delporte at the Koyama table. Words cannot express how much I LOVELOVELOVE those basset hound drawings she's been doing lately. I think if you pry you can spot them in her sketchbook there.

And one table over from us, the mysterious and wonderful Phoebe Gloeckner got her tarot read. I was told afterwards that there were some good twists in what the cards promised.

Finally, former D+Qer Jessica had not one but two(!) comics debuting at CAKE! Sylvia Leeds (on the left, collaborative with Aaron Renier) is now available at the Librairie D+Q (and I'm not sure where else! watch here for a link to an Etsy soon), and Miss Connie Dutton (on the right, solo) will be available soon from Oily Comics. Both are wonderful, and I recommend becoming a Jessica Campbell completist if the option is available to you.

Aside: Tom, watch out, these people seem to have your book-holding technique down. They may be the new books-in-office bloggers if you aren't careful.

After CAKE was over, we went out for a truly lovely post-show dinner with (L-R): Leslie Stein, Michael DeForge, Helen Koyama, Aaron Renier, Jessica Campbell, Anne Koyama, Robin Nishio, and Lisa Hanawalt!

Here's the photo before the vegetarians figured out what it meant that there were pig paintings plastered all over the walls...

And here's how the meat eaters reacted:

Not long after this, we evaporated in a pile of delicious beef hearts and early flights. Lisa and I went back to the apartment, jammed all our new, beautiful comics into our overstuffed suitcases, and said our fond farewells to the fishes.

So long, Lisa Hanawalt!
Friday, June 21, 2013

TEN years!

So the story goes something like this: On this day in 2003 I emailed Peggy Burns and asked her if she had any recommendations in regards to a new publicity position that opened up at Drawn & Quarterly. Back then Peggy was the publicist for DC Comics and I figured that maybe, just maybe she knew of someone who would make a good candidate. Within a few minutes Peggy replied and stated that, in fact, she would like to be considered for the job. I assumed she was joking and didn't even reply. She already had a job in this field, working for a major company like DC, and was living in a great city like New York. If anything, she was overqualified, and of course there would be other issues, such as emigrating to a foreign (French-speaking, in part) country. Of course she couldn't be serious! But then another hour or so passed and another email from Peggy came in, this time with her CV attached. I think at that point I realized that Peggy was hardly joking, and so I gave her a call to start discussing it. Needless to say, Peggy moved to Montreal along with Tom Devlin and started working here in September of that year, all of this happening within 90 days of that initial email exchange.

In the ensuing years Peggy has, of course, transformed D+Q for the better in every conceivable way, and she has been an instrumental figure in the success of all of the authors we have published since then. I was supposed to keep this appreciation brief, saving it for the official anniversary in September, so let me leave off with this for now: Peggy is easily one of the smartest people working in publishing. It's been a real honor to work with her during this past decade.

Above: Drawing of Peggy Burns by Adrian Tomine.
Thursday, June 20, 2013

RIP Kim Thompson

By now this sentiment has been expressed by many people, but it's worth noting again here: Kim Thompson was one of the most important and influential figures in modern comics. Without the pioneering work that both he and Gary Groth did at Fantagraphics there likely wouldn't be much of an alternative comics movement to speak of today. If Kim and Gary only worked on The Comics Journal for 35 years that alone would have been a formidable accomplishment, as that magazine was instrumental in shaping the first couple of decades of the modern graphic novel. But they also, of course, published their own line of comics, and in doing so they created a market for these kinds of comics where very little of the sort existed before.

I think I may have met Kim perhaps a dozen times over the past 24 or so years, although I still vividly remember that one of my first phone calls in the business was to him. It was late 1989 and I called Kim to place a listing for the first issue of Drawn & Quarterly in the sister publication to The Comics Journal that they ran at the time, Amazing Heroes. I remember being nervous, and I couldn't believe that I was actually speaking to Kim Thompson.

If I can pick one thing that stands out about Kim, it would be the dedication he had in regard to ushering into existence in all of his numerous projects. In just the past five years or so, he has seemingly worked on dozens of translation projects, undeterred by market expectations or if the author was known or unknown. From what I can tell, if Kim strongly believed in the merit of a cartoonist's work that would be the only criteria in regards to whether or not a book was published. Kim's single-minded determination and enthusiasm was admirable and is the reason why we are all here today. And it's why we get to read so many volumes of great cartoonists like Jason, Tardi, Joost Swarte, and Thomas Ott.

Helge Dascher has worked as a translator in comics for nearly two decades, and in recent years she has worked with Kim (by this point Kim had taken in so many projects that he needed help in staying on top of it all). Helge loved working with Kim, and she wrote the following:

In addition to English, Kim spoke Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German, French, Italian and Spanish, and he translated from many of those languages. He liked to do voices: tough-guy noir, Kaurismaki-Jarmusch deadpan. Puns—always a challenge in translation—came easily to him. He really loved words—for their etymology, their sound, their connotations, the way they look on a page. He brought many European comic greats into the English language, translating mostly, as he told it, “after dinner weekdays, or in chunks on weekends.” That enthusiasm made working with him a real privilege. He was an incredibly thoughtful and generous editor, inexhaustibly committed to getting things right, and the list of projects ahead always seemed endless. 

And D+Q Creative Director Tom Devlin and founder of the influential alt comics publisher Highwater Books has this to say:

Kim Thompson's legacy is huge. For thirty-five years, he was the co-publisher of Fantagraphics—the greatest comics publishing house of all time. And that publishing house is arguably the most important publishing house in the tail-end of the 20th century and beyond. I hope his contribution is remembered on that scale. Not just in the comics world but in the entire publishing world.

For me, personally, Kim was a model publisher in his dedication to projects he believed in. At some point, I referred to these as "crazy Kim projects" because they were so clearly outside of what the North American market demanded. Kim published comics he liked whether they were in- or out-of-fashion. And often they were out-of-fashion. Funny animal comics during the flowering of the second wave of underground cartoonists? Classic European comics during the serious graphic novel era? Sure, why not. Kim's approach gave me one of the most important lessons ever when I started publishing: Just publish stuff you love above all else. If you think it's worth reading then it is. Get those comics out there for others to see what you see.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

D+Q in Chicago Part 2: CAKE

Let me just say how excited we are to be participating in this year's edition of CAKE, which has become one of the more buzzed-about festivals after only one year in existence! I'll be in attendance, as will beloved, hilarious former D+Qer Jessica Campbell, so come say hi. You can find D+Q at tables 35 and 36 at the Center on Halsted (3656 N Halsted). The events of the weekend look a little like this:

Friday June 14, 9 pm
Join us for a CAKE kick-off event: a signing at Quimby's Bookstore (1854 W North Ave) with Michael DeForge, Lisa Hanawalt, and Patrick Kyle, followed by a Comic Art Battle.  Michael DeForge, Lisa Hanawalt, Patrick Kyle, and numerous other cartoonists will participate in this drawing face-off hosted by Ezra Claytan Daniels.

Then, bright and early Saturday morning, it's the main event...

the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo! with 

Lisa Hanawalt annnnd 

Chris Ware!

The schedule for the weekend at tables 35 & 36:

Saturday June 15, 11 am to 6 pm
12 – 1 pm Lisa Hanawalt signing at D+Q tables
12 – 1 pm Chris Ware panel, hosted by Jake Austen
1 – 2 pm Chris Ware and Jake Austen signing at D+Q tables
 3 – 4 pm Lisa Hanawalt signing at D+Q tables

Sunday June 16, 11 am to 6 pm 
12 – 1 pm Lisa Hanawalt signing at D+Q tables
2 – 3 pm Lisa Hanawalt signing at D+Q tables

While they won't be signing at our tables, D+Q authors John P and Kevin Huizenga will both be exhibiting at the show, so please go find them at tables 82 and 15, respectively. Hope to see you there, Chicago!

Interns are awesome (enough with the spot varnish!!)

Why, hello, Molly Johanson, awesome intern currently working in Production here at D+Q. Watch for her fingerprints all over Rookie Yearbook Two and Walt Before Skeezix. And what does she have here? It's the cover to Reggie-12 from Brian "Alone Time" Ralph. Is there a spot varnish on this book too, you ask yourselves? Why, yes, there is. You'll just have to wait and see what special surprise we dream up for this one. Also, lots of larfs inside this book. LET ME TELL YOU!

Monday, June 10, 2013

A little robot boy and his friends

People, we are so so so close to having yet another Brian Ralph comic book in our hands. Of course, Brian confounds expectations and delivers a YA humor comic about a happy-go-lucky (usually) robot boy and his lousy selfish friends. And his clueless boob creator. And a bunch of Giant Robots that the little boy has to fight again and again. Oh, this comic is called Reggie-12 and it's a collection of the strips that Brian did in the back of seminal asian-culture magazine Giant Robot (plus a handful of pages from the, ahem, Highwater Books Free Comic Book Day comic, as well as a couple new treats.) Rereading these strips I was shocked at just how hilarious these strips were which was something of a surprise because if you've ever met Brian in person then you know that he's pretty much a cold fish. But on paper, well, he's like an electric eel who won't stop making the jokes. Or an octopus who is holding a joke in each tentacle and then he gives you a spanking new joke one after the other until you have a total of eight jokes. He's like that.

OH, before I forget, holding up that page from the forthcoming Reggie-12 book is none other than our beloved and handsome Julian Ceccaldi who is leaving the Drawn & Quarterly family (co-operation!) after working at our store since he was just a youngster. So long, Julien! You are the best and will be sorely missed.

ROOKIE YEARBOOK TWO in stores October 1st!

This beauty is in the works so all I can say is that it will have new content by Judy Blume, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, and Grimes! (What a @$%^# line-up!!!!!) And that ROOKIE YEARBOOK TWO will also feature interviews and contributions including Morrissey, Emma Watson, Molly Ringwald, Carrie Brownstein, the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chris Ware, and Museum of Jurassic Technology founder David Wilson.

Tavi was in the office last week, and she and Tracy laid out the book, and then they work with Sonja Ahlers who is in the Yukon and provides the gorgeous art for the opening spreads for each month, such as the above's August On the Road!
Friday, June 07, 2013

Art Spiegelman's CO-MIX

Here’s what comes to mind after reading Art Spiegelman’s new book, CO-MIX: he has somehow managed to pack in what would otherwise be four or five (or six or seven?) widely influential careers into one lifetime. From Raw to Maus to The New Yorker, as editor, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, designer (not to mention bubble gum card guru and designer of giant stained glass murals), is there anything that Spiegelman hasn’t done and pulled off so well?

Let’s take a look at just one feature of CO-MIX: it’s a section that covers his mid-1990s book, The Wild Party. The art in the book itself is all very striking, mostly done in a stark scratchboard technique. But to get to the finished art, Spiegelman sometimes produced dozens of drawing studies, like this one:

 As with Maus and all of his other work, Spiegelman had a fairly lengthy process where he studied the composition and very foundation of a work until he reached the end result.

All of this is gorgeous stuff, and he has literally hundreds of pages of these studies in his studio, covering work spanning decades.

Remarkably, almost none of this has been collected in book form in North America until now. CO-MIX presents an important fraction of it, and hopefully it’ll go a long way in shining light on the sometimes overlooked aspects of his life’s accomplishments.

CO-MIX won’t be in stores until mid-September, but those of you in Chicago can come out to see him THIS WEEKEND at Printers Row!! 


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