The Expeditioners are here! And a Neighborhood Sharks update!

This just in at The Schulz Library…

The Expeditioners Books 1 & 2 – by faculty member, S. S. Taylor (and illustrated by class of 2010 alumni, Katherine Roy!)

theexpeditionersThe Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair, the second book in the series, was released this September. S. S. Taylor and Katherine Roy are currently on a tour to promote the book. For an up to date list of where they will be appearing and signing, visit:  sstaylorbooks.com

Katherine Roy’s nonfiction book, Neighborhood Sharks, is now available as well! You can buy it here.

ROY_MacmillanSigning2

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SPX 2014!

SPX 2014 was a total blast for The Center for Cartoon Studies and Schulz Library!

Co-founder, James Sturm, moderated the Alt-Weekly Comics Roundtable and co-hosted the Ignatz Awards with the absolutely radiant Sasha Velour (Sasha Stienberg, class of 2013.)

Several members of the CCS community were nominated for Ignatz Awards this year, and one took home the brick!

This year’s fellow Sophie Yanow was nominated in Best Graphic Novel for War of Streets and Houses.

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Luke Howard (class of 2013) was nominated in Promising New Talent for Trevor.

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Sophie Goldstein (class of 2013) was nominated in two categories -Outstanding Artist for Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell / House of Women and Outstanding Minicomic for House of Women, which she won. Congrats Sophie!

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The QU33R Anthology, which included contributions from many members of the CCS community, won the Ignatz for Best Anthology!

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Congratulations to all our Ignatz Nominees and Winners!

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Elephant in the Room, Blood in the Water: Katherine Roy, nonfiction, and travel

New York-based illustrator Katherine Roy, a 2010 The Center for Cartoon Studies alumna, has been churning out book after book of gorgeously-illustrated nonfiction for young readers. In addition to her series of young adult novels, The Expeditioners, co-created with CCS affiliate Sarah Stewart Taylor, Roy produced the illustrations for Anthony Aveni’s Buried Beneath Us, as well as her own project Neighborhood Sharks, which is due out through Roaring Brook Press this Fall. As I spoke with her, Roy was preparing to leave for Kenya to begin researching her next book project, a nonfiction book about elephants.  We corresponded via email in April.

Roy's first book, Neighborhood Sharks, debuts this fall.

Carl Antonowicz: So the last time you spoke with us here at the Schulz Blog, you were teaching a class at Art Institutes Boston, which had a really interesting panoramic drawing assignment. Have you been doing any more teaching?

Katherine Roy: I love teaching! Especially freshman art school students, they are just the best!! But I’ve found that designing curriculum for college-level classes is one of the most time intensive jobs there is, and between research for new books, promotion for upcoming books, school visits and getting the usual stuff done (eating, sleeping, bathing, etc) I’ve had a pretty full schedule. I hope to teach again soon, though, perhaps for the Foundation or Illustration departments of an art school here in NYC!

CA: You’re headed to Kenya on a research trip for your next nonfiction illustrated book–which is about elephants, I hear? Could you talk about how you arrived at that topic and financed that trip?

From Roy's blog.

KR: I’ve always loved animals and I’ve always loved science, and elephants have been one of my most favorite creatures since I was a little girl. I was known for collecting stuffed animal and wood-carved elephants throughout elementary and high school, most of which is still resting somewhere in my mother’s attic. So once Neighborhood Sharks was underway and I was beginning to imagine follow-up books, African elephants seemed like the perfect next book. Where Sharks is about the physical proximity of a species to us living just off the coast of San Francisco, Elephant will be about the emotional proximity of a species. We have a great deal in common with elephants in terms of longevity, maturation, and family structure, and they are amazingly complex and intelligent creatures. I also love that Sharks takes place in the water and follows a predatory fish, while Elephant takes place in a dusty, land environment and follows a herbivorous mammal. The dramatic difference in landscape and type of creature will give me completely new problems to play with in this next book.
Oh man—financing the trip!  The moment after I got the amazing news that my editor had made an offer on the book and I’d finished jumping up and down, I was filled with dread about how in the world I would pay for it, because YIKES, going to Africa is not cheap. But luckily, thanks to a roundabout connection and generosity of a few strangers and scientists, part of my stay in Kenya will be as a guest at the Mpala Research Centre a few hours north of Nairobi, where I will be able to join the ecology and elephant research teams for a few of days out in the field. Following my time there, my mom will be flying into Nairobi to join me for a safari, and as we’ll be sharing a room during Kenya’s rainy “low season,” the per person rate is surprisingly reasonable. I even found a good deal on the flight! The trip will still cost a money of course, but between selling drawings and prints upon my return, some savings, and a slight bump in my advance, I think the financing will come together without completely destroying my ability to eat and pay rent for the rest of the year (fingers crossed). I suppose in the age of the internet it’s a little old-fashioned to insist on traveling, but the writing and the art in Neighborhood Sharks would not have been possible those days spent on a boat with the Farallon shark research team. I love traveling, I love learning about the way things live, and I love talking to scientists and researchers, so I’m fully committed to creating a life and a career where on-location research is my foundation for accurate, engaging stories. The passion comes through in the work, and best of all I get to share my experience with my readers through the books. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting photos from my trip while it happens as much as the internet and mobile network permits on Twitter at @KRoyStudio! For anyone interested, please join in following my feed!

CA: Your book with Sarah Stewart Taylor, The Expeditioners, went into its paperback printing not too terribly long ago, and (unless I’m grossly mistaken), you have a sequel volume coming out this fall. Could you talk a little about your experience with this book?

KR: The Expeditioners series has been a joy to work on with Sarah. It’s so rare for an author and illustrator to get to work together on a book—usually the editor stays firmly in between them, so that each party gets to contribute their own vision without feeling pressure from someone else’s ideas—but for us the collaboration has been tremendously rewarding and the books are stronger for it. We’ve also both learned a lot from being so close to each others’ creative process. So much of our lives as writers and artists is spent working alone, so it’s great to be “in it” with someone else on the same team! The first book indeed went into paper back in fall 2013, and the second book, The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair, will be coming out in September 2014. I’m tremendously excited to share Book Two with our readers! Finally, I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility of an octopus submarine, so please don’t ask me any questions about that.

The second volume of Roy and S.S. Taylor's series, to be released 9 September 2014

CA: Have you been doing any more work with the caterpillar character we saw in your thesis–or have your other works dominated the majority of your time?

KR: My upcoming nonfiction books, along with The Expeditioners series, have definitely dominated my creative time over the last couple of years. But even though none of that work is explicitly comics, so much of what I learned at CCS goes into every image I create. I do miss actual comics though, and the Caterpillar is never very far from my mind. Right now we’re playing around with self-publishing my first Caterpillar comics on Kindle, and so far my very first Caterpillar comic, The Perfect Snowman and Other Caterpillar Tales, is now online and available as an ebook (http://amzn.to/1kb2DJP) with Spots and Junior Pharaoh to follow soon. I also have plans to pick up the series again in the future, perhaps shifting it into a more picture-book like comics-format so that it might find a wider audience. I definitely see more Caterpillar in my future, along with other fiction for kids!

Roy's whimsical and charming Caterpillar stories are stunningly drawn.

CA: How is being a professional author/illustrator different from self-publishing comics? Obviously, you’re getting paid for your work, but how does it affect your writing/drawing process?

KR: For me, the actual writing and drawing is the same process, regardless of who publishes my work. It’s hundreds or thousands of hours at a desk, drawing and scribbling notes and having amazing breakthroughs and being hopelessly stuck, and ultimately producing something for other people to read. But the real difference is in that question of how getting paid actually happens, and how many strings are attached to the commercial outcome of a project. When you self-publish there’s more creative freedom—you can do a book of any size on any topic at any print run—but that freedom has to be paid off in some other way, usually with another job. With a brick-and-mortar publisher you have to ask yourself “Will 10,000 strangers pay $25 for this book?” Most of us can’t really answer that question, but an editor has to feel some confidence in the sales value of an idea to commit the big time and money it takes to bring a book from concept to shelf.
I like making books, and I like getting paid, so I guess I just choose from the ideas in my head which ones make more sense for a publisher and which ones make more sense for self-publishing. But once a project is underway I try to forget about all of that and just focus on making good work.
CA: What else is on the horizon?

KR: So many things! My third book as an author/illustrator will be Making More, a nonfiction exploration of reproductive biology in the natural world, and coming up soon I’ll also be working as the illustrator on a book called Bottle of Pop by author Greg Mone, all about how plastic and soda are made and what happens once to the bottle once you’re done drinking it. Beyond book projects, I try to get out and enjoy NYC as much as I can, and I’m also attempting to learn how to play the violin. I’m on my way to my dream of being as mediocre a violinist as Sherlock Holmes!

If Roy puts as much effort into her violin as she does into her pages, the classical music world had better batten down its hatches

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Julie Delporte: Everywhere Antennas

Julie, as drawn by Julie

It’s been a great couple of years for Montreal-based cartoonist Julie Delporte. In addition to having been The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Fellow for 2011-12, she’s released the wonderful Pigskin Peters Award nominated Journal through Koyama Press, the children’s book Je Suis un Raton Laveur through Canadian publisher La courte Échelle, and has worked on a francophone comics radio broadcast Dans ta Bulle in Montreal. If all that weren’t enough, she has a graphic novel, Everywhere Antennas, coming out through Drawn and Quarterly this May. I spoke with her via email this past week.

Carl Antonowicz: You were the fellow here at The Center for Cartoon Studies along with Blaise Larmee back in 2011; You’ve been fantastically productive since then, publishing not only your children’s book Je suis un raton laveur (which is adorable) but also Journal with Koyama press, along with the dozens of other projects you’ve had in the works. Do you think that your time at CCS helped you to become more productive?

Julie Delporte: The Koyama and La courte Échelle books published last year and the Drawn & Quarterly one to be published this year I started during my fellowship at CCS. Basically, I had nothing else to do than drawing: no job, no boyfriend, and not the same language as the people around. There was a bit of money provided, and all the students of the school around me (including my roommates) were working very hard… So yes, the CCS context helps to be productive! But I didn’t do half of what I wish I could have done. I’m someone with a lot of ideas of stories and concepts, and I feel really frustrated not to be able to draw and write them all. I’m not a hard worker, It’s painful to me to stay at my desk all day. I really wish drawing would be more physical, like dancing. Right now, I’m not so productive. I’m in that position where I have to start new books… And I don’t have a lot of self-discipline.

The French edition of Delporte's Journal from l'Agrume

CA: I can see how being hunched over a desk all day might be unpleasant. Do you tend to work at a desk when you’ve got big cartooning stuff to work on, or do you usually work in a sketchbook?

JD: I wish I could work in a sketchbook, but I need a desk, or I feel like I need one! I want to try painting, so I need water and space, and then if I go out suddenly I’m missing a pencil of a specific color (or I feel like I need it)… Then I want to check a reference image on the web. I always feel like my set up is not the good one, or that I miss something in order to work. I guess all this gives me some reasons not to draw. But maybe it’s also like a ceremonial: I need my space, my tools, my objects, to be good and inspired.

CA: Your work always has a very personal, very honest quality to it. Much of the time–especially in Journal–it feels more like poetry than like narrative. Is this something that you consciously pursue, or does it just come out that way?

JD: I would have loved to be a musician just to be able to write lyrics. Sometimes I write my comics as if they were lyrics. But I never think of doing “poetry”, and my comics always seem always very narrative to me: what I’m telling, the content, is always a bit more important to me than the images. I don’t feel like I’m part of a trend of beautiful but strange and abstract comics, with no immediate understanding of what it is about.
But comics have such a tradition of classical narration that of course some people can feel I’m a bit on the side, and call what I do poetry or experimentation.

An image from Julie's tumblr, probably related to Everywhere Antennas

CA: Do you think of your work as being experimental? I mean, do you try to evoke specific emotions in your readers, or is it more intuitive than that?

JD: It’s really intuitive. But what I try is to do something different, something which is specific to me and resembles other comics as little as possible. And I like to experiment with new media. I was really into colored pencils for a time, but I hope I won’t be drawing with them the rest of my career, so right now I’m really willing to learn more how to paint. I guess this is called experimenting? When I’m thinking of specific emotions that I’d like my readers to experience, I see one thing: I want them to feel that they are holding a real object. That they are opening my own sketchbook (in the case of Journal), like if they found someone’s journal, forgotten in a cafe for instance, and can’t help but reading it. With the new book, which is fiction, I worked the same way. I want people to feel like they are opening the journal of my character. That’s why I’m working a lot to leave apparent all the creation process, pieces of tape, etc.
I think I need this because of the digital world, where nothing is material anymore. Plus I don’t like the fact the comic form is a totally codified art, invented from nothing connected to reality. I try to find a way to give more physicality to my work.

CA: You’ve got a book coming out this May with Drawn & Quarterly, correct? What’s that one about?

Proof of Everywhere Antennas in the D & Q office.

JD: Everywhere Antennas is the diary of a girl who is sensitive to electromagnetic waves (wifi, cell phones…), it give her headaches and all sort of weird symptoms, and she has to completely rethink her life. A lot of people claim to have this handicap, but only Sweden recognizes it. I didn’t want to do a documentary about this handicap, but it was very inspiring to take it as a start of my story. The book is also about the feeling that you have to adapt to modern technologies, and not the contrary as we are all told. And it is also about the fear of the invisible, the untold, when you feel something is wrong but no one else can validate what you feel.

CA: Do you personally feel out of touch with modern technology?

JD: I would love so much to live without this internet everywhere and the cell phone tyranny. The worst is Facebook where we see and know constantly things we don’t want to know. And I waste so much time on it… I imagine all the books I could have done if Facebook didn’t exist… But I’d like other people to get rid of it also, of course. I mean, I can’t live (right now) without that technology, but I dream of another evolution for human contacts and everyday life.

CA: You said in your exit interview with James Sturm back in 2012 that you’d like to do more bilingual comics, despite the fact that they’re more difficult. Have you been working more in English or French recently?

JD: Ah, I forget about that! I still feel like it would make sense in Montreal to mix more French and English in the book industry in general, but I didn’t put any energy into that.

CA: What do you think bilingual comics would look like?

JD: I’ll have to do them to know.

Julie Delporte: anxiety killer

Delporte’s Everywhere Antennas comes out in May.  Visit the Drawn and Quarterly website for a free .pdf preview.

Posted in Cartoonist, CCS Alumni, Interview, Visiting Artist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Root Hog or Die: Professor Beth Hetland on books, academia, and progress

One of The Center for Cartoon Studies’ most notable graduates, Beth Hetland (’11) is a character, to say the least. Hetland’s infectious enthusiasm and near-boundless energy make her a nigh-unstoppable educational and creative force. In addition to her professor duties at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she produces somewhere in excess of one hundred pages of comics per year, performs onstage with writing partner Kyle O’Connell as Brain Frame Lit, and somehow still found time to chat with your humble reporter a couple of weeks ago.

Carl Antonowicz: You’ve just recently released the collected edition of Fugue, the single editions of which were the majority of your thesis here at CCS.

Beth Hetland:  Yes!!!! Victory!!!!

The complete Fugue. Hetland turned in the first two chapters and an early version of the script for chapter 3 as her Master's thesis at CCS.

CA:  What’s different about the collected edition?

BH:  Well, I think the biggest difference between the collected version and the single issues is that there are no more screen printed covers. As much as I love screenprinting, the books were, thankfully, selling faster than I could print sometimes. To be able to block off that amount of time became harder and harder as my attention shifted to more projects.

CA:  Is it still hand-bound?

BH: They are still hand-bound, believe it or not! My school got an electric perfect binder and I run them through that puppy. Even though collating, cutting, scoring, and gluing takes time, it’s SIGNIFICANTLY less time than actually screenprinting 2 colors per cover for three books. Plus the interior pages are cream, like my original thesis, not the single issues, and there’s color chapter breaks, and a new cover and a fancy pants ISBN and barcode for stores. But those are more surface changes, the art and story are generally the same with only a few minor nudges.

CA:  Now that it’s done, are you planning on pitching Fugue somewhere for publication?

BH:  Yes, sir! That was one of the big reasons to collect it. Not many publishers are interested in 3 separate books, they would much rather have everything in once place. I’ve been doing some research both on literary agents and publishers and getting my ducks in a row. My goal is to bring collected Fugue to my shows this year and then retire it maybe? Or perhaps catch the eye of a publisher and pitch something new, different and fresh since Fugue has been out for about 3 years now. I would be happy with either of those options.

CA:  In an ideal world, where would you like Fugue to find a home?

BH:  I suppose they go hand-in-hand, but I think that my silly and big dream would be Scholastic or First Second. Just because I admire and love the books that come out of those publishers and so incredibly wish I could work with those people and be listed in their catalogs.
Demographically, it feels like folks interested in memoir and/or coming of age stories would be most interested in it. Plus I get a lot of moms who like it. Truly, I would be happy just knowing it was nestled happily on the shelves of people I’ve never met.

This was one of Ace Reporter Carl Antonowicz's favorite comics of 2013.

CA: Now what about the comic you’re cowriting with Kyle O’Connell, Half-Asleep?

BH: YEAHHHHH this comic is so much fun. Plus I love collaborating, it’s kind of nice to just “show up” and do the parts I like to do.

CA: I was going to say, it seems like your projects with Kyle have a very different thematic focus than your solo work.

BH: Oh yeah. They really do. And what’s funny is that these are still things I’m very interested in, but I view collaboration, or at least the idea of collaboration, as a way to practice and refuel my batteries while still making creative progress.

Hetland and O'Connell's first big collaboration, Cycles.

CA: Kind of freeing, would you say?

BH: Fully freeing. He loves to write and I love to draw and we started collaborating because I was burned out on Fugue and I said “Hey, I wanna do NaGrNoWriMo, but I don’t wanna write. I’ll draw anything you write up to 200 comics pages… you in?” I needed to just completely forget about myself and just play with some fictional characters that were going on an adventure. That was our first big collaboration, Cycles. And once that project was done, I had some major breakthroughs with the ending for Fugue which was entirely necessary. Once Fugue Part 3 was done, he and I launched into Half Asleep.

CA: I remember you were having some difficulties with Fugue 3 after you graduated.

BH: Yeah, it was rough. I was really disappointed in having to turn in a placeholder for my thesis, but that story just wasn’t ready. I wrote and re-wrote part three completely, start to finish, over 10 times. I have all 10 versions still but holy god are they wretched.

CA: Do you think it was just time that allowed you to finish it to your liking, or was the work on Cycles more integral to your pro(gr/c)ess?

BH: Oo I like that word! pro(gr/c)ess!! I think it was both. I got some great criticism on part 1 and 2 and I needed that to sink it and practice improving my weaknesses, so that’s where Cycles was helpful in the process. But I think it just let that part of my brain relax and go through the meditative process of drawing and problem solving rather than charging my way through it, which was a very different approach coming from me. Since I went right from undergrad to grad, charging through was my only tactic for a large portion of my creative growth. Now that I HAD more time, I was finally able to use it. I still get critiques about being “too fast” and not “taking time” by some of my friends but that doesn’t bother me. I have my reasons for being shark-like in creation.

CA: Excelsior.

BH: Root Hog or Die, and so on.

CA: Speaking of time, after you graduated from CCS, you went on to teach comics at your alma mater, right?

BH: You betcha! I have yet to live a day not on the Academic Calendar…

CA: How did that come about?

BH:  Well, I think it happened around January of our last year at CCS. My favorite teacher from SAIC (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) emailed me.  She and I are good friends and were at the time too, but she said “Hey, I’m applying to a new teaching job at University of Oregon, and if I get it, I want to be able to give SAIC a name. Would you feel comfortable if I put your name in the running?” and I said, “Sure, that’ll never happen but go right ahead!”
And over the last stressful months of working full-time, finishing my thesis, I was also building and finalizing my CV for her to give to her Department Chair.  The same weekend as our physical commencement, I got a call asking if I had time to interview in the next week.  Turned out Surabhi, my teacher buddy, got the job and recommended me with high regards as being a fresh new graduate. I interviewed, submitted a few sample lessons, and the next thing I knew I was packing up my stuff and sobbing at a goodbye party. It happened incredibly fast, and even though I knew this was what I wanted, I still felt like I wasn’t prepared.

CA: But your classes have been a hit the students, haven’t they?

BH: Yeah. To be perfectly frank with you, it was touch and go for a little bit this past year.  When I started, I had a feeling that Surabhi’s classes were full and they were looking at me as if I was a temporary solution and I would just get fired the next year.  Lucky for me, my students gave me exceptionally positive course evaluations. But over the next year, my course load was reduced from 4 a year to 2 a year. That second year, my job was posted and I had to reapply.
BUT I got rehired (hooray), and now I’m teaching 4 classes this semester, 2 of which I pitched on my own and they were accepted with open arms.

CA: Is having to reapply for a position you’re already in a standard practice in academia?

BH: It’s tricky to say, because as a part-time instructor, you are only hired based on class proposals. So it’s the Chair’s decision. However, since it was only my second year, I didn’t know a lot about the politics of what it means to work in academia.

CA: Did it take you by surprise?

BH:  Immensely. And then it was really hard to have to tell my friends who were applying for the job, asking me about writing them a rec for it.  Under any other circumstances I would have LOVED to support them, but as it was my current job… well you can see how much that sucked.
My theory is that since I was hired originally last minute, they wanted to make sure that they were choosing a faculty member that added a lot to the school and departmental curriculum as well as finding the best candidate for the students. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. But wasn’t fun.
That being said though, without that terror, I wouldn’t have had the balls to pitch new classes.
And It taught me some valuable lessons about branching out, and being experimental in my way of teaching and thinking about comics at a Fine Art school.

CA:  How so?

BH:  Well I was only teaching Comics in Writing for a while, as Painting and Drawing had their own classes. I also taught a class in Fibers that was about narratives. This was a class Surabhi created.

CA: …Fibers? Like textile art?

BH: Yep! But as other parts of my income I travel and review portfolios, I saw a lot of comic interest in first year students, so I pitched a class to the first year program, called Contemporary Practices, and it was accepted.
And another department at my school is Arts Administration and Policy, so I pitched a class that is similar to the professional practices class at CCS but this one is geared toward freelancers, illustrators and cartoonists. Having my courses in different departments made me feel more grounded because there was more exposure to what I was doing, as well as a variety for the students and gave me an opportunity to articulate why I think comics can be taught in these different areas of the school rather than only in Writing or Painting and Drawing.
Does that make sense?

CA: Yeah! So comics, as the marriage of the written and drawn images, deserves a berth in both of those disciplines.

BH: Yeah, and I think expanding what comics are to talk about Narratives helps them find a home in places people may not initially think of.

CA: In my experience, though, most of the fine artists I’ve brushed up against tend to look down on comics as a form. “it’s not obscure enough! anybody can read this!” Whereas most literary types I’ve talked to about comics are more open to the idea of the medium. have you run into much of that at SAIC?

BH: And that’s some of the stigma I think I’m helping to remove.  Cause whether fine artists like it or not, more and more people are interested in narrative, and if the schools that value abstraction over story don’t even offer classes in the latter they’re missing out on a huge demographic of potential incoming students. There are hurdles like any other place. But I think more and more people are accepting the idea and willing to experiment, especially at a place like SAIC. Lots of my students now are coming in saying they read Scott McCloud in 8th grade and they think it feels outdated– WHICH BLOWS MY MIND–and, even more strange, is that we’re reaching a point where that book was written before they were born.
So they’ve grown up in a world where comics and comics theory and language is bridging “common knowledge.” It’s a fascinating point to be in, to be able to discuss with my seniors comics theory and appreciation as a literary form, and to discuss with my freshmen comics common knowledge and Understanding Comics being used in their high school AP English classes.

Soon, everybody will know what a page turn is

CA: So they tend to be able to talk more in-depth about formal concerns?

BH: Sometimes yes, but they’re also still juggling how to be adults too. I mean that in the nicest way possible, but they can get really hung up on one point they disagree with and it can derail any other in-depth comments that may have begun previously. But I have to say their conversations go in a very different direction than I anticipate.

CA: I imagine it’s fascinating to watch these kinds of conversations from the other side of the podium.

BH: Oh yeah! One of my favorite parts is having a class read a comic and then discussing it the next week. They come up with some astounding conclusions and I love listening and guiding them to conclusions. Or letting them fly off the handle bars about how gorgeous it is!

CA: What have some of your assigned readings been?

BH: Well this semester I’ve got: Understanding Comics (Scottie M), The New Ghost (Robert Hunter), The Ticking (Renee French), Book of Leviathan (Peter Blegvad), The End of the Fucking World (Charles Forsman CCS ’08), The Lagoon (Lilli Carre), Meanwhile (Jason Shiga)…I have a bunch more but I’m blanking on some…They read a lot for me.

CA: Good, they bloody well ought to.

BH: Yeah my thoughts too.

CA: You’ve got a fair amount of interest in bookarts and self-published comics–particularly ones that feature interesting formal experiments, as I seem to recall. How do you approach those ideas with your classes?

BH: Each class has a little bit of a different goal, so sometimes this fits and sometimes it doesn’t. BUT I’ll give you a few examples:
My freshman class is called Extracting Narratives, and I’m not allowed to dictate the mediums they work in for their projects, so all their assignments need to be created with the freedom of being able to make anything but it must include narrative. For their final project, I molded a project that Surabhi gave to one of my classes once where we had to make a “One of a Kind Gallery piece” and a corresponding “Multiple or Book.” The point is to see how both related to and are inspired by source material or an original narrative and explore the way in which an audience or reader will experience each piece.
So we do a lot of book binding demos, and visit the Artist Books collection and I’m giving a lecture about Oulipo and Artist Books as a way to help frame their inspiration for this project.
In another one of my classes, they make 3 8-page comics over the semester. And the class is titled “Complex Narratives: Engineering Comics” this one is in the Writing Department, so they are encouraged to consider not only the complexity of structure within their work, but the complexity of structure outside of their work.
In a class I teach in the fall, I give a “one pager” assignment where students need to make one of the three one page comic formats and create a story that works within that format. They can do the “8-page folder,” Expanding comics (ala CCS faculty Jon Chad) or the Choose your own Adventure (ala Jason Shiga) and some great things come out of that project too.
Plus I can’t help but talk about what I love, and that happens to be Artist books, creative formats and narratives that work with how they’re housed.

Those pizza slices are books that Hetland was assembling for her Brain Frame Lit performance while talking to me for this interview.

CA: Is there a book arts program at SAIC?

BH: No, but there are various Artist Books classes in different departments, Viscom (graphic design) has a letter press, Print Media has artist books and offset, Writing has a book lab and an artist books course as well as some art history courses focused on book arts.

CA: You’d done a lot of teaching even before graduating CCS. Was it your plan to teach comics on a collegiate level all along?

BH: I’m pretty sure it was. When I made the decision to invest both time and money into an MFA I spent a lot of Pros and Cons lists thinking about what an MFA, or MFA program, could offer me that just comics creating or workshop experience couldn’t. And at the end of the day, I love teaching. I love having students. I love the “performance.” I love critiquing. I love the ever growing and expansive community of learning and academia. When I decided I was going, my base goal was to teach college age students.
I’ve done some young kid workshops, and some middle grade ones too, and I even gave a guest lecture at a high school last fall, but i still think college age is my jam.

CA:  What’s different about college-age students (aside from the rampant hangovers)?

BH: They’re just a bit more serious. I can push them harder. I also think I view them more as peers in the comics world rather than apprentices. I don’t feel worried about moving too fast in lectures, discussing more matured content comics, and they don’t have to call me “Ms. Hetland.”

CA:  ”That’s Ms. Beth to you, bro”

BH: Actually I go by Professor Beth.

CA: So what’s coming up in the future, Professor Beth?

BH: Good question, Ace Reporter! I’m not even sure how to list it. There’s still a lot! Next year I’m teaching still at SAIC, I have 4 classes for the year of 14-15, I’m planning to debut some new parts of Half Asleep at the conventions I’m attending this year (TCAF, VanCAF, CAKE and SPX), I’ve got some solo project ideas on the back burner, I’ll be hanging out in Vermont for a little bit this summer, I’m getting an intern, and umm… I don’t know, long term is still up in the air. I’m hoping I can continue to ride the wave of teaching, new projects and staying happily busy.
That sounds really hokey but I’m honestly just trying to make it to the end of the semester. I’m ready for this winter to be done and I’m ready to spend some time working on my projects.

CA: Once more into the days of short sleeves and inky fingers.

BH: Yes, and bicycle rides.

TOGETHER: BIKES!

BIKES

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At the Schulz: The complete Popeye by E.C. Segar collection

Popeye_Collection_Schulz_library

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Academia Nuts: CCS Students to present at Dartmouth

Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, is hosting its third annual Comics, Illustration, and Animation Conference this weekend. The programming includes a variety of academics from such far-flung climes as Hanover, Germany; Coventry, UK; and, oddly enough, White River Junction, VT.

First year student Nikolaus Gulacsik has been working in close collaboration with Dartmouth professor Michael A. Chaney to organize a book fair and presentations to be held Friday in Dartmouth’s Haldeman Hall (6-7pm in room 041, if you’re planning on dropping in).

Gulacsik said that the presence of Center for Cartoon Studies students at the conference is just a continuation of the long-standing–albeit tenuous– relationship between CCS and Dartmouth. “There has been a little give and take in the past,” he said. “James [Sturm] was close with [CCS Board member] Ana Marino, who was at Dartmouth some years ago.”

The book fair promises to be a well-attended one, despite its short duration: 12 CCS students, alumni, and associates are presenting or selling their work at the event. Confirmed attendees include current CCS Fellow Nicole Georges, first years Rebecca Roher and Jonathan Rotztain, second years Eleri Harris and Tom O’Brien, and alumnus Carl Antonowicz.

The remainder of the conference will feature panels and presentations on a wide variety of comics and animation related topics, including Motion and Guided Views, Graphic Autobiography, History in Comics, and marginal cultures as represented in comics.

CCS also partners with Dartmouth on the annual Will Eisner Lecture. Past lecturers in that series have included Joe Sacco and Jules Feiffer.

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LET KOREN’S REIGN BEGIN!!

Laureate+PassingPEN

Today the pen was passed and Vermont officially appointed the great Edward Koren as the state’s newest Cartoonist Laureate taking over the reigns from Burlington’s James Kochalka.

Governor Peter Shumlin, back from  some Obama facetime in Washington DC, welcomed the Brookfield, VT firefighter and longtime New Yorker contributor to Montpelier and offered his congratulations.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin with Vermont's new Cartoonist Laureate

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin with Vermont’s new Cartoonist Laureate

After a Senate meet-and-greet, Ed appeared before the Vt. legislature where the Cartoonist Laureate resolution was read on the State House floor. Once official, Ed’s laureate powers kicked in and he transformed into one of his cartoon creations.  Ed and I then climbed aboard his giant crow quill pen that flew us through the cold Vermont sky, over the White River, and to The Center for Cartoon Studies for a public lecture and reception.

But before Ed could bewitch us with tales of his long and hairied storied career, proper tributes had to be made! Ed’s fellow New Yorker cartoonists hold him in high esteem!

 

Liza_Donnelly_koren-drawing

Yes! Liza Donnelly!

“I’ve known Ed for many years. He’s a genuinely good egg, and a terrific, funny cartoonist. But what makes his work so special is not just his sense of humor, but that he has created a parallel universe peopled– if that is the right word– by endearingly strange characters which we enter every time we see one of his cartoons.” —Roz Chast

Sipress

The one and only David Sipress!

Ed-Koren-Congrats

The memorable Michael Maslin!

MortG

Mort Gerberg, there from the beginning!

Harry Bliss sent along this audio tribute:

kong

Harry Bliss, taking Ed’s advice

And from  New Yorker editor David Remnick:

“The great imaginative artists, comic or seriocomic (what other kinds are there?), are great at least in part because they create a world: Baldwin’s Harlem, Faulkner’s hamlet, Chekhov’s dachas. Ed Koren not only created a world—the Koren worlds are both urban and Vermontian, but all Koren—he also created creatures, part human, part fantastical, to represent and give voice to all of our anxieties, joys, and craziness. Long live Ed Koren, his world and his creatures!”

Ed, it was great spending the day with you! You’re the best!

korenSturm

 

Governor Shumlin, Ed Koren, and outgoing Cartoonist Laureate James Kochalka

Governor Shumlin, Ed Koren, and outgoing Cartoonist Laureate James Kochalka

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Kickstart My Heart: Joyana McDiarmid and Maple Key Comics

The Center for Cartoon Studies alumna Joyana McDiarmid launched a Kickstarter last month to crowd-fund the first two issues of her new bimonthly comics anthology Maple Key Comics. The project is an ambitious one, to say the least–McDiarmid’s first issue alone is over 300 pages of new comics from 17 different creators–but the community response thus far has been overwhelming. The Maple Key Kickstarter has already raised over $4,000 of its $7,000 goal in the first two weeks. Joyana and I met a couple of times this week to talk about Maple Key and her hopes for the endeavor.

Banner from the Maple Key Comics website. The image is from Luke Howard’s cover to the first issue.

 

Carl Antonowicz: So you’re putting together a bi-monthly comics magazine called Maple Key Comics. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got started on this idea?

Joyana McDiarmid: Well, going to The Center for Cartoon Studies and comics conventions, I saw this sort of empty space in the comics market. You had the people who were making…these fantastic little minicomics that you’d only come across sort of by accident. I started to notice the enormity of the gap between self-publishing and finding a publisher–a publisher who would treat your comics the way you’d want them to. Through the visiting artist seminars at CCS, a theme I began to see among these people who do great work and have good publishers was that a lot of [their success] was luck. It’s hard to be passionate about comics knowing that the endgame is based on luck–whether or not you’re going to find a publisher or find your audience.

 

Maple Key Comics’ Contributors Roster, incomplete. These and other fantastic cartoonists’ work will grace the pages of the forthcoming publication.

CA: Why did you choose to do something that’s a periodical rather than a one-shot anthology?

JM: There are a lot of one-shot anthologies out there. A lot of them are themed. I think the problem with that is that cartoonists have more to offer than short stories based around a theme. A lot of people want the opportunity to write a longer format story that will keep them drawing. Having a serialized story is very important, I think, to the psyche of cartoonists because you have a definite deadline for each section of  your work, and you can accomplish a large story by taking little bites at it. That’s something that I found when I was doing my thesis project, which was based around little vignettes of 2-12 pages, having that deadline of “now I’m going to finish this vignette, now I’m going to finish this one,” I was able to accomplish about 80p in 5 months. That was incredibly rewarding. I think that having a serialized story helps you as a cartoonist in your career, too–people see your name out there, people see a publication and a story in which they can get invested. One of the models for that was Japanese manga magazines… They’re collections of ongoing stories where you get a chapter at a time. The stories within the magazine vary widely between genres and the kind of storytelling they use. All they really have in common is that they’re manga. I really enjoyed that idea of being able to continue a story.

A “Weekly Jump” cover. Oh man, check out that Luffy. He ate all the rubber fruit. Image courtesy of whatismanga.wordpress.com

CA: Maple Key is going to be something like the way MOME was, then? Like a collection of on-going and one shot stories not really tied together by their themes?

JM: Yes, the difference is that Maple Key focuses on serialized stories. MOME had a few of those, but they started and stopped at different times; in Maple Key the ongoing stories begin and end together.

There is no theme, the point of Maple Key is to let cartoonists tell the stories they want to tell. The layout and design of the magazine will make the transition from one story to the next clear. This way people won’t get confused as to what story they’re reading.

In Maple Key stories run either 3 chapter or 6 chapters. The stories that are 3 chapters long are split into two groups, the first batch running in the magazine from issues 1-3, and the second batch runs in issues 4-6. 6 chapter stories will, obviously, run in all 6 issues.

CA: You’ve talked about Maple Key being something that sort of bridges the gap between minicomics and graphic novels or periodical manga. Why did you choose to make Maple Key Comics a single-volume affair rather than something that’s a collection of small books? Why not do it in a format more like Charles Forsman’s Oily, or what the Dog City boys are doing, where it’s a bunch of little books in a box?

JM: I am a notorious overpacker. I will put every single book I think I might want to read in my bag and sometimes they get beat up, they get lost, I might not have packed the second volume of the story I want to continue reading…When I was living in Seattle, I commuted everywhere on the bus. Having a bunch of comics floppies in my bag was really annoying–and I love the format, I love the way Chuck packages things at Oily, but those stay in my house. I don’t take them with me to read at a coffee shop. So that’s sort of the idea behind having them all in one book–you can have a variety of reading material. Although, the first issue is 300 plus pages, I don’t know how portable it’s really going to be (laughs).

CA: 300 pages is about the size of a normal paperback novel, which people bring with them everywhere, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

JM: Oh yeah. But the idea is to have something portable, something that is cohesive in its design.And, as a person who works in a library, I like the idea of being able to neatly put your minicomics on your shelf

All my comics I get from friends and at conventions live in six shoe boxes in various states of organization. When I want to re-read one I have to dig through all my boxes to find it, because no matter how well I think I’ve organized them, I have no idea what is in what box.

Don’t get me wrong, I love minicomics and what Oily and Dog City are doing. There is something really special about handmade comics. This format is just what I’ve decided works best for what I want to do with Maple Key. I want to focus on the stories, keep the packaging neat and crisp, and have a book and ebook that I can get out into the wider world. I want my contributors to be able to reach a wider readership, we can help each other out, they may pick up Maple Key for Sophie Goldstein and find that they love Sasha Steinberg’s comics just as much.

 

Promotional header for Sasha Steinberg’s new story, debuting in Maple Key Comics #1.

CA: So by packaging all these creators together you intend to sort of pool interest?

JM: Absolutely. Something I have been privileged to experience by going to CCS is a sense of community with other cartoonists. We may feel competitive sometimes or have a pang of career envy, but we want each other to succeed. The world of comics has room for all of us, and if it doesn’t, we have to make room.

So we help each other out.

The publishing world can be brutal to break into, and some of it has to do with luck. I’m hoping that Maple Key Comics will be able to give the cartoonists that contribute a little more luck. They can say to publishers “I’ve been in this magazine, I drew a six chapter story for it. I have follow through, I have an audience.”

CA: What’s been interesting to me about the run of your Kickstarter–and about Kickstarters in general–is that they are already so community-based. Like each of the Maple Key contributors is getting a spotlight, which encourages them to share the link to the Kickstarter to their networks, etc.

JM: Kickstarter itself is community based. The people who run it encourage those who use it to be open, honest and transparent with their backers. They like to generate a feeling that we’re all in this together. And I feel that with this project. Maple Key is about the comics that are in it, and the creators behind those stories. It makes sense to spotlight them, get people interested in them and their comics before the issue comes out. And, once again, we all reach out to our friends and our readers (and our families. Parents are the best backers) and they get interested in the other cartoonists involved with the project. That way our circles grow. The Kickstarter marketing is doing exactly what I hope Maple Key will do, widening each of our circles.

Am I getting too hippy-dippy, lovely-dovey, feel-goodie?

CA: No, not at all. The first issue, you said, is going to be somewhere around 300 pages of comics, correct?

JM: 300 pages, it’s really amazing. The contributors are pushing themselves to create some great comics, they are dedicated to their art. Once I realized the first issue was over 260 pages I got another quote from the printer I wanted to use, and it had doubled. I had to change printers, but I’m not complaining, there are 17 creators doing what they do best.

CA: Facilitation and creation are two kind of intertwined aspects of a work like Maple Key. Could you talk a bit about how you see those interacting in your own work?

JM: I crave an editor for my own work these days. I think it is a combination of working as an editor and not being in school anymore, where I had constant feedback.
And as a cartoonist, I know what to look for at each stage of someone else’s work when I am editing it.

CA: It’s kind of unusual that you’re both an editor and a practicing cartoonist; I feel like most people have to jump one way or the other eventually. On which side do you see yourself falling if it should come down to that?

JM: Oh no, I hope that doesn’t happen. I would say cartoonist.
I like editing, I like all that goes into getting a comic to print. Well-designed books make me very happy, I enjoy adding all the little things that make a book look polished.
But I love cartooning the most.
The thing keeping me sane during the stress of running a Kickstarter is being able to tune out for a couple of hours and make comics.

CA: The first couple issues seem to be focused primarily on CCS alumni and affiliates. I assume you plan to expand the scope of contributors?

JM: Definitely. I reached out to non CCSers when I was inviting people to contribute, but I’m a no-name. The people willing to take a bet on me are the people who know me. My hope is that as my cartooning circle grows and the readership of Maple Key grows other cartoonists will want to join in.

CA: You said that you’ve got plans to use MKC as a springboard to launch the parent company Samara Press into something more like an art books publisher. Do you want to talk a little about that?

JM: Samara Press is my five year goal. I want to see how Maple Key goes this year, six issues. If it goes well I want to continue into a second year, maybe publish some comics separately from Maple Key, like a collection of work or a one-shot. And if that goes well, so on and so forth.

I like that there are several micro-press comics publishers, it gives cartoonists more options to get their work printed. Samara Press would be like that, a way for great cartoonists to focus on making comics while we do all the other stuff. Stuff like printing, distributing and advertising. Doing that on your own is almost a full time job.
Digital platforms for comics are quite up there for readability and profit. Samara Press would look into ways in which we could make comics more easily read digitally, and how artists can make some money on their digital comics.
It’s something that no one has really cracked the code on yet.
I don’t presume to think that I’ll be the one to do so; I just want to keep my eyes on those kind of projects.

CA: One last question: How has the Center for Cartoon Studies helped you in this endeavor?

JM: As an alumni of CCS I was eligible to apply for the Inky Solomon Center Grant, a grant given to the school by the state of Vermont to help alumni with business ventures. So I did. And I got it. This meant that I had a little money to start a website for Maple Key, and that I had access to business planning resources. Some of the faculty at CCS and president Michelle Ollie sat down with me and helped me brainstorm what I needed to start Maple Key. It was the first major spark that made me think “Yes, I can do this.”

From the Maple Key Comics website.

The Maple Key Kickstarter is at the time of this writing over halfway funded, and due to finish on 19 Februrary. The first issue is due out in April in both print and digital formats, and will feature work from Bill Bedard (CCS ’12), Neil Brideau, Jon Chad, Rachel Dukes (’13), Sophie Goldstein (’13), Laurel Holden (’13), Luke Howard (’13), Laurel Leake (’13), Josh Lees (’14), April Malig (’13), Joyana McDiarmid (’13), Mathew New (’14), Will Payne (’14), Dan Rinylo (’13), Sasha Steinberg (’13), and Iris Yan (’13). Backers can get subscriptions, high-quality prints from contributors Howard, Leake, and Rinylo, or pieces of original art.

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Transatlanticism: CCS to take Angoulême by storm

Every year, the sleepy little town of Angoulême, in the Poiteau-Charentes region of France, is beset by over 200,000 comics enthusiasts for a four days of events and programming in celebration of the art of bande dessinée: The Angoulême International Comics Festival (In French: Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême.). It’s the second-largest comics festival in the world (topped only by Tokyo, Japan’s Comiket).
This year, though, a cadre of cartoonists from The Center for Cartoon Studies–former fellows Julie Delporte, Alec Longstreth and Max de Radigues and alumni Charles Forsman, Joseph Lambert, and Jen Vaughn–will be in attendance.

A very very small image of the poster for the Angouleme festival.

Forsman, Lambert, and Longstreth will be tabling with de Radigues in support of their books released through de Radigues’ publishing house L’Employe du Moi. Angoulême is just the kickoff of their whirlwind tour of francophone Europe, however–the boys will also be stopping in Brussells and Paris for book signings.

A Max de Radigues-designed promo poster for the book signings.

Longstreth, who had attended the festival in 2009, is pretty excited about the trip:  “It’s like if you had San Diego Comic Con AND the Small Press Expo AND the Portland Zine
Symposium happening all at the same time, and also you set up exhibits from the Cartoon Art Museum and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, and did some retrospectives on Bill  Waterson and Carl Barks and NBC news came in to cover the whole thing.”

“It’s hard to imagine it happening in America,” Longstreth said, “But it happens every year in France!”

Longstreth documented his previous Angoulême visit in his minicomic Phase 7 No. 14, which you can read online here. If any of our readers overseas have the time and the inclination to go to Angoulême, we highly recommend it!

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