Thursday, October 1, 2015
Sunday, March 1, 2015
The Flight of the Valkyries
|Peter Nicolai Arbo - Valkyrie, 1865|
by Uncle Staple
Synergies - they're awesome. We have some great synergies working this year on the STAPLE! guest list. Most of these talented ladies already know each and are friends, some have collaborated together as well. For example, Kate Leth did all the scout badge designs for Lumberjanes, the comic by our other guests Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Shannon Watters.
Kate also started The Valkyries, an affiliation of women who work in comic shops, and some of those Valkyries helped us get Janelle Asselin to STAPLE! I shall explain.
Around the time of Denver Comic Con I saw that Janelle was doing a panel there called Hire This Woman, based on her Comics Alliance column of the same name, which included, among others, my friend Jamie Kinosian (who has also been featured in the column). I thought, especially since we are focusing on women in comics this year, that it would be awesome to get Janelle here to do the same panel with some Texas-based female creators. I asked Jamie to put me in touch with Janelle, which she kindly did.
Happily, Janelle was available that weekend and interested in the idea, we just had to find a way to cover her travel. STAPLE!'s usual sponsors (local comics shops Austin Books, Rogue's Gallery and Dragon's Lair) were already committed to bringing in our other guests, so I couldn't ask them for more help. I talked to a couple shops in Houston, and they weren't able to do it either, at least not in full.
So, I was chatting with my friend Meredith Nudo about this conundrum and she came up with the brilliant idea of reaching out to the Valkyries to ask for assistance. Meredith, among her many other credits, is a Valk herself, and knew that they would be excited about having Janelle at the show, and likely willing to chip in to help make it happen. As it turned out, she was right.
I asked her to take the lead and she diligently went about securing enough donations to completely pay for the cost of Janelle's flight, thereby making Janelle's appearance, and our own Hire This Woman panel possible.
These are the Valkyries (and a couple non-Valks) who contributed to the fund:
Meredith Nudo - Pop & Schlock Podcast
Annie Bulloch - 8thDimension Comics & Games
Alva Coto & Jessi Jordan - Third PlanetSci-Fi Superstore
Sarah Simes - @allaloam
Leia Calderon - SubCultured
Jesus Garza - SpaceCity Nerd
Danni Danger - WeirdGirls!
Bedrock City ComicCompany
I am deeply indebted to them and humbled by their willingness to help, and very touched by the sense of community and coming together to make this happen, which is part and parcel of what STAPLE! is all about. Connections, synergies, cooperation, community.
We reached out to that community and asked some of our guests, panelists, and friends to tell us what they felt was good about STAPLE!'s focus on women and diversity this year, and this is what they had to say:
C.M. was also recently interviewed by Janelle: http://comicsalliance.com/making-the-reader-root-for-the-villain-an-interview-with-writer-c-m-bratton-hire-this-woman/
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
|Lumberjanes also contains many references to |
famous feminists, who can be Googled if necessary!
|Lumberjanes badges designed by Kate Leth|
Monday, February 16, 2015
MATT HIRST: Thank you for doing this. These interviews are one of the great perks I get for volunteering for Staple.
DEAN TRIPPE: Thanks so much, man. Means a lot. And no problem! Happy to do it.
MH: You have had a lot of really good interviews, and of course, many great discussions in your own podcasts with Scott Fogg and Jason Horn. Are there any questions that you are surprised you have not been asked?
DT: No one’s really wanted to go too deep on my sick rap skills, but I suppose my album’s been out of print since 2004, so maybe folks today don’t even remember.
MH: Something Terrible can be counted among a number of moving survivor accounts. What I feel differentiates this work is the expression of living with a sense of fear and stigma at being a potential abuser. That seems like an experience that has seldom been shared. Have you found other narrative accounts since you published it that impress you, for this kind of expression or for other reasons?
DT: I hear from folks who’ve had similar experiences multiple times per week, but yeah, it’s rare for folks to come out about being sexually abused and get heavy into the fear and stigmas that come with surviving such crimes. The one that stands out to me came before Something Terrible, David Holthouse’s account of plotting to murder his rapist, presented in TAH episode 425, Slow to React. ( http://www.thisamericanlife.
MH: Your mini-comic Something Terrible reached millions of readers. Movies made from comics (not just super hero genre) have made millions and won international recognition. I don’t see that level of awareness towards the direct market comic book. What do you think comic book publishers could do better or differently to get more awareness?
DT: The biggest issue that should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind is ACCESS. Every gatekeeper at all levels of the industry should be welcoming to new talent, diverse ideas, and folks just getting into fandom. If you want an industry that can thrive in the 21st century, you have to look beyond the 35-year-old, videogame-playing demographic, and comic shops themselves, have to get way better. There are plenty of excellent shops in the country, but I hear from people all the time who have negative experiences at the only LCS near them. We’ve got to welcome everyone, treat everyone well, and hope each person who enters into our world finds a place where they’ll be safe.
MH: You studied comics in college; what would you say are the top five fiction comics every aspiring comic book creator should read to learn the ins and outs of the art form?
DT: I’ll just list some of my favorites for brilliant visual storytelling: Brubaker and Cooke’s Catwoman arc, Mignola’s Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Other Stories, Morrison and Quitely’s We3,
MH: Are there any of the other guest that you are looking forward to meeting at Staple 2015?
DT: Oh, dude, everybody! It’s a great list. Too many friends I haven’t seen in too long. I’m so happy to be coming back to Austin. I’m psyched to see Babs Tarr, Jess Fink, Kate Leth, Timothy Doyle, Robert Wilson IV, and so many more of the cool kids of comics world.
MH: Do you have any new projects you are willing to hint about?
DT: I’ve got a teen fantasy revenge story and a bright and shiny superhero book in the works. Hoping to have both of those up this year.
MH: This last question may be crazy, but I have been thinking about this for many years now and I think you may have some great insights -- maybe even some answers? Why do we form such a personal attachment to characters who are: 1) Owned by corporate entities (DC, Marvel, etc.) 2) Largely brought to us by hundreds of creators who give up any ownership stake and control over any innovation 3) Radically removed from the creators and contexts of their generation?
DT: Epic tales have inspired and connected with individuals in our mundane lives for as long as there have been storytellers. When civil rights preachers in the South used stories of the Israelites to express the feeling of a coming promised land, they were using old tales to explain a modern condition. And to instill hope, because we know stories have resolutions, of one kind or another. The fact that our modern corporate landscape has found a way to turn creativity into a capital engine is certainly weird, and at time destructive, but it doesn’t affect the power of poor artists and writers pouring their hearts and minds into fantastic tales, and honestly, has the side effect of allowing creators to collaborate across generations, improving upon earlier drafts, refining or refocusing ideas over decades. The good ideas stick. The bad ones fall away. Our heroes are bigger than their corporate caretakers, so even when there’s a bizarre misstep, of marketing or malice, our characters endure.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Jack Kirby deserves mention over all others. Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, and Mark Oakley (who did a book called Thieves & Kings that few people know about and that's a shame) got me into indie comics and the idea of self-publishing. Grant Morrison and Kirby were my gateway back into mainstream superheroes. I could also label a lot of filmmakers as influences, but I'll just give a shout to Terry Gilliam, the greatest imaginative mind ever.
I'm still waiting for someone famous to say Bear Quest is "Jack Kirby meets Jim Woodring by way of Super Mario" so I can make it a blurb.
Kind of hard to say, because Texas, apart from Staple!, is off the radar in terms of the indie comics scene. Tough to be on the pulse of it. The promise of real self-publishing with wide distribution and success, the landscape of Cerebus and Bone, died before I even started making comics. And I see little of that spirit in most webcomics today. Comics, with ongoing storylines, real domain remains to be print. The bright side is that I feel a greater kinship with the medium as a whole, mainstream and all. Maybe I'm delusional. But when I see guys like Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, and Brandon Graham, people I consider straight cartoonists, able to draw, write, whatever, win the good graces of the big comics publishers...I smile and think of our Great Comics Family. Band together or we die alone.
You went a long period only working in black and white. How did inform your current color work and would suggest it to other artist?
The black and white period came from frustration in printing my color work. I did digital painting in college, and always seemed to have to give the excuse "it looked better on the computer" in portfolio class. So, when I started making comics seriously, I made it my mission to create a style that was impossible to print incorrectly. That brought about a raw, strict black and white (no shades of gray!) style. Plus, it might have been my "dark" angsty years, haha.
Would I suggest it to another artist? Not if he or she isn't inclined to do it already. Artists will eventually arrive where they need to be artistically if they keep at it. It may take waaaay longer than planned, but they will get there. For instance, while I was in my black and white period, people would see my occasional color work and ask, "What the hell? This is much better than what you are doing. Why aren't you doing stuff like this?" And they were right, it was better. But I couldn't just jump right to color. I had to go through this extended black and white phase to bring myself to that point artistically.
All media is going to collapse into one someday. Just a big mass of comic/game/movie/novel/rollercoaster/whatever. I want to contribute to the spirit of that with Bear Quest, which is at its core the history of a video game property told through a comic. But, I don't know, I'm torn between digital and print, painting and pixels, comics and video games. They all try to grab me away equally. I just hope that whatever our Entertainment Future might be, that a) I don't end up hating it, and b) it's got some spot where I fit in.
As far as social media, I try to keep up with twitter (@z_bill Hit me up!) mainly. I'm a fan of YouTube Let's Plays and podcasts, so I decided to create what I call Largocasts, where I talk about whatever I feel like (comics, games, process, storytelling, etc) as sped-up artwork plays. Trying to figure out what I can do with the platform, maybe create a little community, do something fun and audio/visual.
Yes, The Bear has started showing up at cons and creating mayhem. I guess he heard I wrote a book about him? Weird thing is I've never seen him! I always remember walking out of the con, then...I guess I black out? I wake up in an alleyway, go back in, and everyone tells me The Bear showed up and caused all this trouble, leaving me to apologize. He's prone to shuffle merchandise around, dance, knock things over, and randomly maul people. He's going to get me in trouble!
Though for some reason, most kids don't seem scared of him. There are pictures of him playing with legos in a circle with children. And I once heard about a toddler, initially terrified, taking what looked like her first steps from her carriage to embrace his calf. Good thing she couldn't read yet or she'd know what a monster he is!
There was also an epic battle with Sonic the Hedgehog. Most the time he's in a confused frenzy at these cons.
That sounds right! (Though sticklers would call BQ2 "isometric" perspective, not "overhead") First BQ has resemblances to Pitfall and Hudson's Adventure Island. But the screenshots I mimicked when I made it were from a game no one played called Dynowarz for NES. BQ2 I just say Zelda to make it easy. However, the real influence is my favorite game from the 16 bit era, Landstalker for Genesis. Yep, I was a Sega kid. BQ3 is straight up Doom. The game panels there are actual screenshots from a fully modded Doom 2 level!
I love this question. I can tell you are paying attention, haha! The idea that Bear Quest is just a simple rendition of "what would be happening if this game were real" breaks down slowly. At first, readers assume he's just an oblivious beast being playful. They forget about the person that may be playing the game. Is the bear being controlled? Are YOU controlling him? If he escapes into the player's world, then what does that mean about the former "reality" of the game? There are lots of different ways to look at it, and I wouldn't want to force my version.
If you are lost though, it might help to think of each panel as a viewport. Does The Bear see pixels in a world that is actually detailed… or does he see a detailed world interpreted down to pixels for someone else (The player? The reader?) to see? These questions get weirder and more meta the deeper we go in the story. Especially in BQ3, when The Bear enters the "Largo World" and now the game panels look, in many ways, more realistic than the reality! Then the insane reality-bending thing that happens when he is eaten by an armadillo, haha! It's an experimental work, no doubt. And if readers aren't asking, "What is the game? What is real?" then they are just looking at the purdy pictures.
Apart from the connections, might there be a reason there are so many games being played in these stories? Games are my stand-in for most all media. It's relevant that the city is crumbling, or an adventure is happening elsewhere, and all these characters want to do is beat a video game. I'm not making some judgmental statement about humanity and how we bury ourselves in trivial entertainment and ignore our actual problems. But we absolutely do that. I see that and it goes in my books. I am so, so guilty of it myself. It should be obvious that I spend a good deal of my time with my head in fantasy worlds, both my own and others. I believe it's healthy, at least for me, to do this. It's how I cope with the real world. That's why beating the game always gives the hero insight into how to beat adversity.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
An Interview with Jess Fink, illustrator and creator of CHESTER 5000, WE CAN FIX IT, and just all kinds of online stuff (like KID WITH EXPERIENCE)
Jess Fink wears many hats: illustrator, cartoonist, designer of many a Threadless t-shirt, and more. She's been drawing since she was a kid and earned her degree in Illustration and Cartooning from the School of Visual Arts. Jess has produced female-friendly erotic comics like Chester 5000, a sci-fi autobiography in We Can Fix It, and has many an online offering to be enjoyed from her Tumblr (which we should perhaps mention is NSFW). Alan Moore described her work as "liquid and elegantly stylized." In advance of her STAPLE! appearance, she kindly took time to tell us a little more about herself and her work.