DRAMA is wonderful.

I just wanted to make a short, small blog post, in favour of Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel DRAMA. I had been given an Advance Review Copy nearly a year ago, and the book itself came out this summer, but I finally made time to sit down and read it this past weekend, and it’s wonderful, and I had to share.

DRAMA is about a middleschool girl who, like her friends, is just starting to navigate early romances and complications they cause among friendships, set against the backdrop of the school’s big Musical Production, the actors, and the back-of-house tech crew.

DRAMA is a much tighter story than Raina’s smash-hit Smile, and I think Raina continues to grow wonderfully as an artist too. The storytelling is clean throughout, and there are a couple of really great, inventive sequences (mostly in the bookstores) that go above and beyond.

The story, about liking someone who doesn’t like you back, will resonate with pretty much any reader. I spotted myself in 11-year-old Callie’s dilemmas, and I think most people who read the book with an open mind will see themselves there too. The story’s added complications of falling for a boy who only likes boys, and then having to navigate that new territory, put a welcome, modern spin on the proceedings.

This is a great book, written and illustrated by a great friend of mine, and I’m glad I finally moved it to the top of the giant to-read stack. If you’re looking for a smart read for the about-to-be-teen family member in your like, I can heartily recommend DRAMA.

– Chris

Orson Scott Card is a dangerous bigot.

I was offered the chance to turn my thoughts on this subject into something publishable, something definitive and succinct, but given the nature of the subject and my own lack of time, that wasn’t going to be possible. So instead I’ll say the same thing in an unpublishable and not succinct way:

Orson Scott Card is a dangerous bigot. If he will not even attempt to atone for his dangerous bigotry (including: hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence), then I don’t care if he never gets another job again. Let alone writing a beloved icon of children and adults.

The faux-Liberal hand-wringing going on around this is gross. Orson Scott Card is not merely an ‘artist,’ but also a public figure who actively seeks to increase his fame through attaching himself to high-profile projects. He then uses that fame, and the income generated from these projects, to promote and directly support his hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence. There can be no separation of art and artist when the artist uses his art to directly fund oppression.

If you are standing up in defense of someone who will take a portion of the income they make from writing a Superman comic book and send it directly to an organization that works to oppress a minority, and you are in opposition to those that would see him stopped from doing so, take a good long look at yourself in the mirror.

Holding a public figure accountable for their actions isn’t censorship, and it certainly isn’t fascism. It’s called “being an adult” and if Orson Scott Card wants to use his writing, his “art”, and all of the tools at his disposal to push his agenda of dangerous bigotry, then he deserves to be held accountable for that.  Suggesting otherwise is ignorant.

– Christopher
P.S.: I am aware that the value of the Superman character is already highly compromised due to DC’s horrible treatment of the creators of that character and their families, but as an icon outside of DC’s control the character still possesses enormous weight that makes its role here both valid and central to the issue.

“When To Give Up” is actually pretty helpful

Currently circulating around Twitter and the Blogosphere is this article entitled “When To Give Up” by Calista Brill on the First Second blog. First Second is a publisher of fine graphic novels, about 20 to 24 per year, and Calista is an Editor there.

The article details when and why a comics creator (artist / author / graphic novelist / cartoonist) would or possibly should give up on their dream of making comics their vocation. It’s written from the perspective of a New York City publisher who sees hundreds of submissions per year, and it’s part of a series of articles on the publisher’s website tagged “Behind The Scenes,” that gets into the nuts and bolts of graphic novel publishing. I think it’s generally smart and very on the ball, in that it clearly espouses the economic realities behind comics as a vocation (it’s difficult at best) and confronts readers and the aspiring-to-be-published with some basic truths about the business of comics.

Specifically, I like that Calista takes a bunch of time to couch her advice and experience by pointing out the flaws in her own method, despite that it’s the best method she’s got to work with. Early in the piece she links to two different dissenting viewpoints from hers–about not giving up in the face of discouragement and that editors like her are human and make mistakes–but she goes on to make her overall point: “Take a realistic look at your work and its reception amongst your peers and the marketplace, and if it’s not good, maybe reassess your career goals.” (Paraphrasing)

Where the article slips is in not using clearer language to differentiate between an artistic career, and art as a vocation. It’s clear to me that she’s using phrases like “publishable” to mean “publishable with the hopes of finding financial remuneration.” As I mentioned this article is also part of a series of blog posts on that subject, and being made by a publisher for whom making enough money to stay in business and keep publishing is an end goal (though clearly not the only one). If this was the first article you’d read on this site or were otherwise inclined to do so,  you might interpret this as a ‘quit making art, you suck’ and Calista’s partly at fault here for not being clearer in the second half that this is about the economics of making art. A strong concluding statement would have helped a lot too, to incorporate the economics and vocational aspects clearly outlined in the first half into a final statement–as it is the article just sort of stops, rather than concludes.

All in all, I think it’s a ballsy move for a publisher to come out and preemptively ask artists to do some soul-searching about their chosen vocation. If the people who are going to be providing you a paycheck in your chosen vocation can’t give you advice on that subject, then who can? This article speaks directly to their publishing model and publishing philosophy, and has opened up a heated discussion on Twitter about other models, other philosophies, and the nature of artistic passion. I kind of wish it’d started a discussion about the nature of economic survival in the face of artistic passion, but beggars and choosers, right?

Ultimately, my favourite comment about this article came from Michael DeForge, a very talented comic creator and a friend of mine who was dismissive of this article in its entirety:

“that :01 article going around is dumb, but if that sort of thing could actually convince anyone to quit they were a probably a sissy to begin with”

Straight to the point–DeForge is amazingly skilled creator whose comics ability improves rapidly, whose work I love to follow, and who is already interrogating his own work in many of the ways outlined in the article. He isn’t someone who lacks insight into his own work in the slightest, and the article, which recommends it, is therefore pointless. I think that perfectly sums it up for me.

– Christopher
P.S.: I am friends with Calista and the folks at First Second, just as I am friends or at least friendly with every single person I’ve seen criticizing this article. Just in case you were wondering where my bias is, it’s in favour of realistic expectations of the industry–not the medium–of comics.

Recommended: 7 Miles A Second (7 Page Preview)

I just got a very welcome e-mail from Fantagraphics, with information about their new, upcoming edition of 7 Miles A Second. This book was revelatory to me as a young man, exposing Wojnarowicz’s struggles as a young man himself, though as a hustler on the streets of New York, and later, as an artist and his unfortunate stuggle with AIDS/HIV. James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook do a phenomenal job at bringing his story to life, and this is a vital and important piece of gay history that had been denied to me as a gay teen, and which has been out of print for far too long.

I’m happy to share a 7 page preview with you, and I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy when it is released in February.

– Chris

7 Miles a Second
by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook

68-page full-color 9″ x 12″ hardcover • $19.99
ISBN: 978-1-60699-614-0
In-Store Date: February 3, 2013 (subject to change)

7 Miles a Second is the story of legendary artist David Wojnarowicz, written during the last years before his AIDS-related death in 1992. Artists James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook unsentimentally depict Wojnarowicz’s childhood of hustling on the streets of Manhattan, through his adulthood living with AIDS, and his anger at the indifference of government and health agencies. A primal scream of a graphic novel, 7 Miles a Second blends the stark reality of Lower East Side street life with a psychedelic delirium that artfully conveys Wojnarowicz’s sense of rage, urgency, mortality and a refusal to be silent.

Originally published as a comic book in 1996 by DC’s Vertigo Comics, 7 Miles a Second was an instant critical success and has become a cult classic amongst fans of literary and art comics, just as Wojnarowicz’s influence and reputation have widened in the larger art world. This new edition finally presents the artwork as it was intended: oversized, and with Van Cook’s elegant watercolors restored. It also includes several new pages created for this edition.

“Revolutionary…. a runaway, over-the-top circus… An excursion into areas few, if any, comics creators have tread.” – Jim Steranko

“Seven Miles a Second veers between an almost unbearably gritty naturalism and the incendiary heat of surrealist hallucination.” – The New Yorker

“A revelatory work of art.” – Art in America

“A cult classic… both a celebration of the unlimited potential of the comic book form, and a perfect melding of inspiring, iconoclastic imaginations.” – Jim Jarmusch

ABOUT THE CREATORS: David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) was an artist, writer, filmmaker and activist prominent in the New York City art world of the 1980s. James Romberger is a fine artist and cartoonist living in New York City. Marguerite Van Cook is an artist and musician living in New York City with her husband, James Romberger.



By Shigeru Mizuki
Trade paperback / 6.5″ x 8.75“ / 432 pages, b/w with 16 page full color section.
$ 24.95
March 13
Published by Drawn and Quarterly

Meet Kitaro. He’s just like any other boy, except for a few small differences: he only has one eye, his hair is as an antenna that senses paranormal activity, his geta sandals are jet-powered, and he can blend in to his surroundings like a chameleon. Oh, and he’s a three hundred and fifty year old yokai (spirit monster). With all the offbeat humor of an Addams Family story, Kitaro is a light-hearted romp where the bad guys always get what’s coming to them. Kitaro is bestselling manga-ka Shigeru Mizuki’s most famous creation. The Kitaro series was inspired by a kamishibai or paper theatre entitled Kitaro of the Graveyard. Mizuki’s series was created in 1959, and first appeared in Shonen comics magazine for boys, but quickly became a cultural landmark for young and old alike. Kitaro inspired half a dozen TV shows, plus numerous video games and films, and its cultural importance cannot be overstated. Presented to North American audiences for the first time in this lavish format, Mizuki’s photo-realist landscapes and cartoony characters blend the eerie with the comic.

TCAF in Tokyo – November 13-18

Heya! I’m pretty excited about my next trip to Japan, as I’ll be bringing along a collective of cartoonists and publishers as part of the work I’m doing with TCAF (The Toronto Comic Arts Festival).

I know I’d mentioned it a few times before, but now that the events are public I thought it warranted a blog post. Here are the quick-and-dirty details, but you can find all of the info and links and graphics and author biographies at http://torontocomics.com/news/tcaf-japan-2012-exhibition-details/.

If you’re reading this and you will be in the Tokyo area, I hope you’ll come say hi!

Oh, I’d like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting my trip.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $154 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil  a investi 154 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

TCAF Presents: En Masse in Tokyo
at Design Festa Gallery WEST Room 1-D
November 13th to November 15th
3-20-18, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Free to attend

On Tuesday, November 13th, a group of Canadian and Japanese artists led by En Masse mainstay Rupert Bottenberg will collaboratively create three brand new works from blank canvas’, with the public invited to (unobtrusively) view the creation process. Then, from the 13th to the 15th, all three new narrative art works will be on display and for sale at the legendary Design Festa Gallery, founded by acclaimed contemporary artist Takeshi Murakami.

TCAF Presents: Canada Comic Arts!
November 15th to December 2nd (Speaking Event November 18, 7pm)
Place: Shibuya Parco Part One B1F, Inside Parco Book Center at Presspop Gallery.

We are proud to present “Canada Comics Arts” curated by TCAF of Canada.

In trying to give us a chance to glimpse the presently expanding exciting comics and arts scene in Canada, TCAF has selected and brought over original artworks by amazing artists, Maurice Vellekoop and Love Love Hill, and also books by Canadian artists of their choice. The TCAF crew, artists, and publishers will be in store on November 18th from 19:00 to discuss what’s going on now in the Canadian comics/art/publishing scene. Authors will read short excerpts of selected works. Don’t miss out on this rare chance!

Kaigai Manga Festa, Tokyo, Japan
Featuring The Toronto Comic Arts Festival & Canadian Authors
Tokyo Big Sight, East-West Atrium, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koutou-ku, Tokyo
11:00am to 4:00pm
Admission 1000yen ($12.50CDN)

Kaigai Manga Festa is the first ever Tokyo exhibition of international comics and graphic novels. TCAF will be on hand to represent Canadian comics culture, with the support of Canadian publishers Drawn & Quarterly, Koyama Press, and UDON Entertainment. Authors include Rupert Bottenberg, Omar Dogan, Jeffrey Ellis, Agnes Garbowska, Dax Gordine, Love Love Hill (Collective featuring Wai Au, Kim Hoang, Julie Man), David Namisato, Benjamin Rivers, Miguel Sternberg, Maurice Vellekoop.

In addition, TCAF has created an original doujinshi in honour of the Festival’s 10th Anniversary, celebrating the wonderful original artwork that has been created to represent the festival.

And just cuz it’s kinda neat, here’s the TCAF appearances flyer in English/Japanese:

– Chris

Japan Travel: Studio Ghibli Museum November 2011 & July 2009

It’s been over a year since my last Japan Travelogue, and that was from 2010. I’ve been to Japan three times since then, and taken thousands of photos during that time. My busy life (the reason I’ve been three times…) has kept me from updating as much as I’d like, and while I can’t promise that’s going to change any time soon, I’ve got about an hour right now (at 3am on Friday night) and I figured, what the heck!

Two things before we dive in.

1. Sincerely, the Ghibli Museum is a wonderful, surprising, lovely space, and if you plan on going don’t read this post. Experience it for yourself.

2. I’ve actually already blogged about the Ghibli Museum before, following my 2007 trip. You can see that one–which is much more in-depth–at http://comics212.net/2007/12/12/japan-2007-mitaka-ghibli-museum/.

The Ghibli Museum
Mitaka (just west of Tokyo), Japan
Website: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/

Adjacent to a huge and lovely park, and specifically designed to blend into the surrounding parkland and neighbourhood, The Ghibli Museum sits as a wondrous and somewhat understated tribute to the genius of Animator Hayao Miyzaki. It is, in effect, the opposite of Walt Disney’s ‘World’ and ‘Land”, a themed attraction in observance of a particular animator’s creativity, but one the discourages abandon in favour of consideration, appreciation, and harmony. It’s as perfectly integrated into the fabric, the seemingly shared world of Miyazaki’s works, as any of his films.

I’ve been 3 times and I’d go back any time anyone asked me. I’m planning a trip in November 2012, and I’ll be going then as well.

When my friend Kimi (pictured) and I arrived, it was a warm autumn morning  just before the museum opened for the day and the line of folks waiting to get in was formidable! Like many attractions in Japan, The Ghibli Museum is on a timed-admittance policy, where your ticket (which must be purchased in advance) says not just what day you can visit, but what time you can enter as well. This is to keep the swell of the crowds manageable, but since they never kick anyone out, the earlier in the day you go the easier it will be to get around and see things, and the more fun you’re likely to have.

Fun fact: If you buy your ticket from overseas, there’s no timed admission! Just show up whenever!

Kimi is from Hokkaido, Sapporo specifically, and I met him a few years back on my first visit to the city. He’s an interesting guy, traveling all the time, and was willing to come down to Tokyo to meet me on my trip. He’s actually a bit of a closet nerd too, so we get along great. He’d never been to The Ghibli Museum before and his enthusiasm was pretty infectious. 🙂

There are a lot of lovely little details like this to discover on your trip.

Tickets in hand, we approach the entrance archway.

The Ghibli Museum has a very strict rule about photography, where you’re not allowed to snap any photos inside the building, but you can take as many as you like outside of it. Or as they put it on the Museum’s web page:

*Photography and video recording are not allowed inside the Museum.

-The Ghibli Museum is a portal to a storybook world. As the main character in a story, we ask that you experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder. We ask that you make what you experienced in the Museum the special memory that you take home with you.

The first few times I visited the museum my opinion of this ranged from contemptuous to simply disdainful, but having experienced so many attractions in Japan and elsewhere through other people’s viewfinders, for example going to the Moma and having there be a crowd of people 10-deep taking pictures of “Starry Night” with their cameraphone, I think maybe I appreciate this policy now…

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t try to sneak a few photos. 😉

Back outside and on the roof of the building, we see one of the most amazing pieces of the museum, the Robot Soldier from Lupin: Castle in the Sky (one of the cubes is there too). It’s just perfect. I hope if we ever get robots, they’re Miyzaki robots.

Wrapping around the back half of the museum (not visible from the front road) is a large deck/patio, a gorgeous outdoor space amongst the trees and looking onto the park. It’s an additional exit from the museum, if you’ve decided your visit has come to an end, but it’s also a lovely place to sit and rest, and maybe grab a hot dog, ice cream, or beer.

Nausicaa beer. Er, rather, “Valley of the Wind” Beer. Recommended. 🙂

The deck is also where you can enter The Straw Hat Cafe. This is different than the little food-service window serving snacks, this is a full-service, sit-down restaurant that there is always (in my visits) a 40 person line for. But Kimi didn’t travel down from Sapporo to not go to the cafe, and so we got in that line.

I got some sort of blueberry pop with ice cream in it (delicious) and Kimi got, I believe, home-made ginger ale. Both were excellent! Oh, and? Real straws made of straw.

From the website:

The Cafe serves both cold and hot meals, snacks and desserts. The menu is simple and the variety is limited, but almost everything comes from organic farms, is very fresh and nutritious, and we cook them with loving care and patience. We specially recommend the jumbo fried pork cutlet sandwich, the fruit sandwich, and the strawberry short cake.

Kimi had some sort of curry vegetable/rice dish that was delicious, and they were sold out of the pork cutlet sandwich that day, and so I ordered a chicken club. This is a chicken club, perhaps the most immaculately prepared I have ever had, or ever will have. It had avocado too. It was pretty seriously delicious.

Oh, and the dishes! The food is served on Ghibli-themed dishes, which are, conveniently, available for sale in the gift shop. 🙂

I’m not much of a dessert person, but after how good my sandwich and drink were, I had to see what they’d do with it. Kimi got vanilla ice cream with some sort of compote, and I got strawberry shortcake, that again, was immaculate and light and airy and delicious. Gigi the cat on my plate probably helped make it even more delicious.

Hi Kimi!

The outdoor spaces are fascinating and detailed and beautifully appointed, and the interiors I would say are even moreso. It really is wonderful just being here.

So that was my 2011 trip to The Ghibli Museum. I’m sure my 2012 (and 2013, 2014, 2015…) visit will be just as enjoyable. I’ll see if I can find a few more things to take photos of for you. 🙂

– Chris

BONUS: As I was digging through my archives for this post, I realized I never posted my photos from the 2009 trip to Ghibli. My husband Andrew and I went on my birthday in July of that year, with my friends Dave & Kiko, and their kids Noa and Hana. Here’s the photos from that trip that don’t duplicate what’s above too badly. 🙂

David, Kiko, and Hana.

Noa really liked the Ice Cream.

Representing TCAF in Tokyo. 😉

Thanks for reading!

– Chris

Letting It Go

I was very fortunate to meet graphic novelist Miriam Katin on the tour for her first major work, We Are On Our Own, a few years back. I greatly enjoyed talking with her about the book, and the book itself was a very strong, personal recounting of tragic events surrounding The Second World War. I’m delighted that, according to an e-mail that just landed in my inbox, Katin’s follow-up graphic novel Letting It Go is due from Drawn and Quarterly in February. I’ve reposted the cover and solicitation information below, I hope you’ll look for it when it comes out.

Letting It Go
By Miriam Katin 
Hardcover / 7.5″ x 9.75“ / 160 pages, full color
$ 24.95

Miriam Katin has the light hand of a master storyteller in this flowing, expressive, full-color masterpiece. The world of Holocaust survivor and mother is turned upside down by the news that her adult son is moving to Berlin, a city Katin has villainized for the past forty years. As she struggles to accept her son’s decision, she visits the city twice, first to see her son and then to attend a Museum gala featuring her own artwork. What she witnesses firsthand is a city coming to terms with its traumatic past, much as Katin herself is. Letting It Go is a deft and careful balance: wry, self-deprecating anecdotes counterpoint a serious account of the myriad ways trauma inflects daily existence, both for survivors and for their families. Katin’s first book, We Are On Our Own, was a memoir of her childhood, detailing how she and her mother hid in the Hungarian countryside, disguising themselves as a peasant woman and her illegitimate child in order to escape the Nazis. The stunning story, along with Katin’s gorgeous pencil work, immediately garnered acclaim in the comics world and beyond. With Letting It Go, Katin’s storytelling and artistic skills allow her to explore a voice and perspective like no other found in the medium.

– Chris

Register now for ICv2 Conference prior to NYCC

Just got a reminder e-mail from the good folks at ICv2, reminding NYCC-goers to register to attend their conference. The expert panels, not to mention Milton’s very informative white paper, are really excellent looks at the comic industry, deeper and more nuanced than the general blog chatter that passes for same. Seriously, it’s smart stuff, and if you’re looking to ‘figure out’ comics and graphic novels, and maybe try to glean where the industry is headed, I recommend them.


Hopefully I’ll see you there!

– Christopher

Never Safe For Work