Category Archives: Canadian Cartooning

Trains Of Thought COLLIDE!

Here’s some things!

man-wearing-barrel.jpgITEM! So this Zuda thing, it’s just another way for a multinational corporation to separate you from your Intellectual Property without them paying you what that’s worth. Right? I mean, I’m not missing something? Other than the always-entertaining arguments that a) I can do whatever I want and you don’t know better than me, grandpa! or b) I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING AND I CAN ALWAYS COME UP WITH NEW IDEAS EVEN AFTER I GIVE THESE ONES AWAY. and my favourite c) You’re A Douche. I mean, sure, submit to the will of AOL/Time-Warner if you want to, I guess, but it’s not like the road to webcomics stardom is particularly hidden, or difficult to travel, or without lots of clear guideposts along the way.

sin-titulo.jpgITEM! Speaking of the road to webcomics stardom, a bunch of my friends and associates here in Toronto launched their own webcomics community a few weeks ago. One of their members, Cameron Stewart, finally got around to asking why I hadn’t mentioned that yet on the blog, which is fair, because I really should have as soon as they launched. Honestly, it’s because when I got the “WE’VE LAUNCHED” e-mail the site wasn’t ready yet… Nothing updated, some broken code, all that stuff. I figured I’d wait until they told me to talk about it. I’m every PR-man-or-woman’s dream! So let me introduce TRANSMISSION-X.

“Enjoy new comics every week with Ragni on Mondays and Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher on Wednesdays, followed by Andy B’s Raising Hell on Fridays, along with Scott Hepburn’s The Port and Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo Rounding out the weekend on Saturdays and Sundays respectively.”

I can see why Cameron poked me today, the site’s looking great and all of the currently-updating features have at least a couple of pages ready to read, if not significantly more. Everything there is looking sharp, and, dare I say it? Commercial. I know that commerciality is the enemy of art and all that, but there’s no feeling reading the site that any of these guys–or these comics–aren’t ready for prime time. Let that be today’s lesson: Professional quality comics on the web don’t need to involve AOL/Time-Warner.

Oh, and as I’ve already mentioned a couple of ways in which I’m biased regarding this issue, I’ll add one more to the pile: The next two comics in the TRANSMISSION-X stable are going to launch at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, August 18th and 19th. Get ready for Arthur Dela Cruz’s KISSING CHAOS and Ramon Perez’ KUKUBURI too. Yay TCAF! Yay Toronto cartoonists!

Comics Festival 2007 - Mal CoverITEM! Uh, speaking of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, heh, uh, I’ve been doing a lot of work on that. It’s getting to be the exciting time, and we’ve been adding guests to the show left-right-and-centre. A great mix of locals and international guests, guys and gals, print comics, web-comix, and self-published work. Since the last time I mentioned it, check out some of the folks we’ve added:

From The Internet: Danielle “Girls With Slingshots” Corsetto, Chris “Dr. McNinja” Hastings, Jason “BlogTO” Kieffer, and Roxanne “Torontoist.com” Bielskis.
From Toronto: Clayton Hamner, Dave Lapp, Peter Thompson, Steve Wilson, and Tara Tallan.
From Art-Comix: Kevin Huizenga, Brian Chippendale, Frank Santoro, James Sturm, and Matthew Thurber.
From “The Mainstream”: Mike Huddleston and Adrian Alphona.
Publishers and Speakers too!: Peter (Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays) Maresca, Dan (PictureBox) Nadel, and Jason (Shonen Jump, MANGA: THE COMPLETE GUIDE) Thompson.

I’m pretty excited about all of this, I think it’s gonna be a great show (but then you’ve heard me mention that already), and there are more… many more… plans on the way. You should book some plane tickets.

– Chris

Drawn & Quarterly Solicitations: September 2007

shortcomings-212.jpgShortcomings
By Adrian Tomine
Hardcover book, 112 pages, b/w, 6.5 x 9.25 inches.
$19.95
978-1-897299-16-6

FROM THE AUTHOR OF OPTIC NERVE, THE MOST ANTICIPATED GRAPHIC NOVEL OF 2007

Ben Tanaka has problems. In addition to being rampantly critical, sarcastic, and insensitive, his long–term relationship is awash in turmoil. His girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, suspects that Ben has a wandering eye, and more to the point, it’s wandering in the direction of white women. This accusation (and its various implications) becomes the subject of heated, spiralling debate, setting in motion a story that pits California against New York, devotion against desire, and trust against truth.

By confusing their personal problems with political ones, Ben and Miko are strangely alone together and oddly alike, even as they fly apart. Being human, all too human, they fail to see that what unites them is their shared hypocrisies, their double standards. This gray zone between the personal and the political is a minefield that acclaimed cartoonist Adrian Tomine navigates boldly and nimbly. The charged, volatile dialogues that result are unlike anything in Tomine’s previous work or, for that matter, comics in general.

But Shortcomings is no mere polemic. Any issues that are raised stand on equal footing with expertly-crafted plot turns, subtle characterization, and irreverent humor, all drawn in Tomine’s heart-breakingly evocative style. What Tomine ultimately offers is more provocation than pronouncement—a brutal, funny, and insightful reflection of human shortcomings.

********White Rapids

White Rapids
Trade paperback/ 156 pages/ 2 colors/ 7 x 8.75 inches.
$19.95
978-1-897299-24-1
Pascal Blanchet

Winner of the Best Book prize for the Quebec comic industry awards, Pascal Blanchet’s graphic novel is a compelling account of the rise and fall of the small northern town of White Rapids. In the first English translation of his work, Blanchet seamlessly blends fact and fiction as he weaves together the official history of the town and snapshots of the quotidian life of its residents. Founded in 1928 in an isolated region of Quebec forest, the town was conceived and constructed by the Shawinigan Water & Power Company to function as a fully-equipped, self-contained living community for workers at the nearby dam and their families. Intended as an incentive to lure workers to the remote and inaccessible region, White Rapids provided its residents with all the luxuries of middle-class modern life in a pastoral setting—until the town was abruptly shut down in 1971, when the company changed hands. Blanchet’s unique, streamlined, retro-inspired aesthetic draws on Art Deco and fifties Modernist design to vividly conjure up idyllic scenes of lazy summer days and crisp winter nights in White Rapids, transporting the reader back to a more innocent time.

********

 

Look for Offered Again items and full-size Shortcomings cover behind the cut:
Continue reading Drawn & Quarterly Solicitations: September 2007

How to break into comics, by Jim Zubkavich

“In my experience, even if you have a great portfolio submission it won’t neccessarily translate in to a job. Reread that. I know it sounds impossible and depressing but I’ll explain…

“These jobs have an important social component. People always talk about being in the “right place at the right time” and it’s very true. What they don’t tell you is if you create enough interactions with industry people on a social level, you’ll create those right places and right times. “

Jim Zubkavich, at his Livejournal

My friend Jim Zubkavich is the head of the animation department at Seneca College here in Toronto, and also the taskmaster/co-owner at Udon Comics, so he knows a little something about getting a job in mainstream comics (or really, anywhere for that matter). Despite the fact that I don’t necessarily want it to be easier for folks to ‘break in’ (seriously, it’s not that hard now) I think his advice here is really great, and he really oughtta be writing more often, so I like to encourage him when I can.

If you’ve got any interest in becoming a comics creator, you should go check it out, it’s good stuff.
– Chris

Afraid Of Cock 2: So I was afraid of cock this one time…

Earlier this year, I edited my second comic book (and third project) ever: Comics Festival! 2007. Fulfilling the dual duties of promoting the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and exposing the world to a wealth of talented Canadian Cartoonists, it featured over 20 comics strips from across the country and was quite well-received by all who managed to find a copy at a comic shop on free comic book day. But when the submissions started coming in earlier this year, I got cold feet on one of them, fearing the sort of insane and unreasonable reprisal that follows any comic store retailer being upset about things, let alone things that they are paying to give away for free. What was I so afraid of? Cock, or rather the reaction to cock. The cock of…

Jett Vector, by J. Bone.

It’s J. Bone’s Jett Vector, a sexy intergalactic policeman in a leather pouch and spacefaring go-go boots. Now, this was before the Citizen Steele cocktastrophe, let alone slutty statues and tentacle porn, and hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but here’s the story of my own personal fear of cock.

Darwyn Cooke's cover to Comics Festival 2005!J. Bone is an amazingly talented gay comics artist who’s worked on series including Jingle Belle, DC The New Frontier, and The Spirit. He contributed an awesome one page strip to our first Comics Festival in 2005 (and if you click here you can read it!), and so when 2007 rolled around, I knew I wanted him in the book and he was invited (albeit through his buddy and co-artist on The Spirit Darwyn Cooke) to participate. He turned around a two-page strip in no-time flat, and it was… is… great. You can actually check it out at J.’s blog, Bonesmen. He submitted it to me with a bit of a caveat; having shown the strip to his friends they wondered if it was maybe a little racy for an all-ages book, and what did I think? So I looked at it, and liked it, and then sat and thought about it. Which was a mistake.

Some background: Free Comic Book Day? WROUGHT WITH CONTROVERSY. I’ve no idea why the act of giving comic books away for free has caused so much fucking turmoil, but it totally has, and as the editor of a book being distributed on FCBD, I was very much aware of that…

2004: A child is distributed a mature-readers comic at a Georgia comic book store. It features non-sexual nudity (an excerpt from the recently-released “The Salon” by Nick Bertozzi) and the child’s parent, who apparently has a history of this sort of behaviour, freaks out and calls the cops/the D.A./anyone who’ll listen. This is now known as “The Gordon Lee Case” and the CBLDF is fighting it in court right now. You can help out at http://cbldf.org.

2005: We release our first Comics Festival, and two weeks later get an angry phone call charging me, Peter, the store, and TCAF with being Anti-Semites. Seriously. The reasoning is that we printed Leslie Stein’s comic strip in Comics Festival, wherin the author (Jewish) discusses her physical appearance (see strip here). We thought we’d get flak for Darwyn Cooke having Superman knock-off a local television personality in that issue, not for an autobio comic. Nevertheless, we hold our ground defending Lauren’s right to comment on her apperance and heritage, and nothing major comes of it, but being shouted at and called an anti-semite on the phone? Stays with you.

2005: In a book marked all-ages, a charming “Paul” short story by Michel Rabagliati features a young boy’s first encounter with a naked-lady calendar in a restroom. He is depicted peeing and being embarrassed by the calendar. You really don’t see anything, but retailers screamed bloody murder at the ‘all ages’ tag on something that wasn’t all-ages in… well, Georgia I guess.

2006: There was some cocktastrophe last year too, I can’t remember what it was. I know that the “all-ages” book BLUFF featured an advertisement with bare-breasts in it (that made retailers v. unhappy)… But yeah. Sorry. Anyway.

jettvectorinset.jpgSo, going into publishing the book for 2007? I was a little cockshy about the strip. We’d solicited the book as 13+, made the contents as widely-known as possible, and generally tried to be honest about everything. But I honestly wasn’t sure if the strip skirted into mature-readers territory by virtue of the costume and context of the story… or not. So, and I’m not proud of this, I asked J. if he wanted to cover-up Jett a little more. Maybe a pair of bicycle shorts, or a less-prominent bulge? “If not, I understand, and we’ll run the strip as is and hope for the best,” said I. But I did ask him to change his work. J. said that he’d rather not run the strip if it meant altering it, and I started to feel shittier and shittier about the whole thing… until the book’s designer Chip Zdarsky had a brilliant idea.

“Let Diamond handle it.”

2007 is the first year that Diamond made participating Free Comic Book Day publishers submit their books, in PDF form, ahead of time. I’m honestly not sure why… they don’t seem to have done much with them. But Chip had a good idea. Submit the strip, and if Diamond didn’t say anything about it being ‘inappopriate’ in an ‘all ages’ book (really “Teen” but…) then we’re good to go! J. thought this was a good idea too, and I felt much better knowing that I wasn’t forced to censor or silence a gay creator out of fear of overreaction from the fan and retail community. Did I mention all of this made me sick to my stomach? It did. Anyway. We submitted the book. Heard nothing back. Sent it to press. Diamond got copies. Retailers got copies. No one said anything… until!

CONTROVERSY OVER PHALLUSES AND VAGINAS IN FREE COMIC BOOK DAY BOOKS!

Luckily though, it wasn’t our book. 🙂

Apparently, Image Comics’ Wolfman by Robert Kirkman featured a back-up story with another Kirkman character named “Brit” and the end of the story features a panel with a bunch of dildoes in it. And then? If you flip the back cover of the book upside-down, and squint, and think dirty thoughts, a picture of a vagina might appear. Seriously. This happened and it sent people into a rage. It was fucking stupid, but then so is the idea that seeing an illustration of a flacid penis might seriously damage a little boy forever, and that one’s in court. So yeah, there was tons and tons of controversy this year… Rich Johnston covered a bunch of it in his Lying in the Gutters column, go check it out.

But not our book. I mean, sure, Diamond sent out a warning to retailers that stated that Comics Festival! 2007 (among 20 other titles or so) had material some retailers might not want to distribute to kids, but they didn’t say why. Then, when Kevin Melrose at Blog @ Newsarama linked to the Jett Vector story at J. Bone’s blog, the first comment on the piece was from a “Christian Illustrator” who described the two page story as being inspired by “gay porn”. But he’s a prick, so who cares?

Darwyn and Mal's Covers for Comics Festival

In the end, we had one of the highest-selling “Silver” level free comic book day books, made tens of thousands of comic fans new and old happy, and everything went off without a hitch. It’s now just-about a month after the event, and no one said shit, apparently too distracted by the cocks, tits, and tentacles present elsewhere on the internet. Which means that my own fear of cock was ultimately unfounded.

If you go check the original “Afraid of Cock” post, you can see Darwyn Cooke in the comments section giving me shit about railing on Don MacPherson when I had come very close to censoring an artist for similar reasons. Why was I giving Don shit? Well, mostly for the yaoi comment actually, and for not knowing what an erect penis in spandex looks like… but I digress. I was giving all the “men” who were “creeped out” by the original image shit because I’d been there, if to a lesser degree. I had 20 other artists in Comics Festival, 1000 retailers who ordered the book, and 25,000 fans who might take objection, and under that pressure I strove for a compromise rather than standing 100% behind an artist who I had personally invited to participate. Put simply: I totally fucked up, and looking back, I see that. All I can say is I’m a convert… for cock. If people are gonna see it even when it isn’t there, then by fuck, lets put it out there in future.

I’ve already apologised to J. in private and we’re cool, more or less, but I did want to take the opportunity here to apologise again to J. for not standing up for a strip I enjoyed, by a fabulously talented artist. If anything, I’ve posted this here not only to air out the skeletons in my own closet, but also to try and draw some attention to J.’s work, to Jett Vector in particular, and maybe let prospective publishers know that there really isn’t anything wrong with this material. It’s sexy, yeah, but it ain’t slutty (see: Marvel Comics, DC Comics). It can be tough dealing with a property that skirts the line, particularly the scary male sexuality line, but it can be done and I’d hope that anyone reading there would trust J. Bone to be the guy to know the difference. I didn’t at first, but believe me, I’ve seen the light. Hopefully some smart editor out there will too, and we’ll all get more Jett Vector in future.
– Christopher

Canadian Steve MacIsaac gets a Xeric Grant

shirtlifter-cover.gifCongratulations to Canadian Steve MacIsaac and his comic Shirtlifter, they managed to snag a Xeric Grant! Steve is, I believe, unofficially debuting the second issue at TCAF this summer, and I rather liked the first issue. You can check out my review of the first issue here. To find out more about Canada’s Steve MacIsaac (and read a bunch of his comics for free), check out his website at http://www.stevemacisaac.com/.

The rest of the Xeric Nominees for this year have been covered quite nicely by Heidi MacDonald at The Publishers Weekly Blog. Congrats to all of them too, but someone’s gotta give props to the Queer Canadian artists. 🙂

– Christopher

Comics Festival 2005: Free Online

Darwyn Cooke's cover to Comics Festival 2005!Lost in the crazy of one of my previous posts was the note that, in honour of Free Comic Book Day, we put the very first edition of Comics Festival! up online in its entirety. There’s lots of cool stuff in it, you should go check it out if you’ve got some time to kill reading comics…

Comics Festival 2005: Free!

– Christopher
P.S.: Just because I’ve already been asked: We don’t have plans to put this year’s Comics Festival online until sometime after TCAF. Sorry… :-/

Svetlana Chmakova Profile

Dramacon Volume 2We’ve done 3 or 4 events with Canada’s own Svetlana Chmakova at The Beguiling, and she’s always been a wonderful and gracious guest. In advance of Anime North, Canada’s largest manga and anime convention, The Toronto Star just did a profile of Svetlana and her work, including Dramacon for Tokyopop, Adventures of CG for CosmoGirl Magazine.

I… think… the print version of The Star actually has a comic strip by Svet in it, though I’m not sure? I’ll check when I’m at the store later today. But yeah, it’s a nice little profile and I’m glad Svet is one of the new creators really making a go of the OEL manga thing. Though I don’t talk about it as much due to drama my fears regarding the Tokyopop contracts are still there, and I’m really happy when it looks like a creator within that system is succeeding and branching out beyond it.

More at: http://www.thestar.com/article/211329

– Chris