Articles Published the Week of April 12th

Meredith Gran finds herself adrift with "Adventure Time," finishing "Octopus Pie"

"Octopus Pie" remains one of my favorite webcomics after all these years. I've spoken with Meredith Gran in the past and we talked recently about the changes that have gone on in the strip, from color to the new dimensions of the page, to the characters growing older and the nature and meaning of their experiences changing.

Ryan Burton plots a return to the horrific future of "Dark Engine"

I spoke with my CBR colleague Ryan Burton about his Image Comics series "Dark Engine" which is a strange Lovecraftian horror series set in a bleak and strange future. He and artist John Bivens have done some really interesting things with the second story arc in a way that really expands the world they established in the first arc.

Tom DeFalco says he's lucky to write the last issue of "Archie"

Tom DeFalco has worked on a lot of high profile in his long career in comics and this year he's writing "Archie" #666, aka, the last issue before the series gets relaunched by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. I spoke with DeFalco about the issue, starting his career at Archie Comics, what the characters mean to him and some larger thoughts about reinventing characters and comic series.


Congrats to Kerry Roeder for winning the Rollins Book Prize

I was thrilled to learn that Katherine Roeder received a 2015 Rollins Book Award. (Admittedly I'm a few weeks late on this, but I'm still catching up from being sick)
The Rollins Book Awards are given by the Southwest Popular and American Culture Association to scholarly books in three topics. Roeder was given the award for "Sequential Art/Comics and Animation Studies" for her book Wide Awake in Slumberland: Fantasy, Mass Culture and Modernism in the Art of Windsor McCay. Previous winners have included Philip Nel (for his great book Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss) and Jeet Herr and Kent Worchester (for A Comics Studies Reader)

I was a huge fan of the book, which I think it's an incredibly thoughtful and important book about McCay's work and a really important project in the ongoing effort to build a library of comics scholarship. I had the chance to talk with Roeder last year when the book came out and we had a great conversation about the book and McCay, Freud, modernism and related topics.



R.I.P. Herb Trimpe

I was sad to hear that Herb Trimpe died recently.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Trimpe in 2011 and we talked about his education, his early years at Marvel, some of the major projects on which he worked. He shared some stories of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas and Tom DeFalco. We barely even scratched the surface, though, of all that he had done both inside and outside of comics. I do regret that we never had the opportunity to talk again. I would have loved to speak more about a few different projects, leaving Marvel after thirty years and going back to school, teaching, his volunteer work at Ground Zero after 9/11.

What struck me re-reading the interview today was how there was so much more that he wanted to do, how much energy he had, but also how content and happy he was. It's an annoying cliche that artists are grumpy and dissatisfied people. Admittedly it's common. I won't argue that, but Mr. Trimpe was a man who wasn't a superstar artist. He wasn't huge then and he isn't huge now, though he is deeply respected and admired by so many of us who work in comics. But he was a man who felt that he had nothing left to prove to anyone–including himself. There was still plenty he wanted to do. I remember when we spoke he was talking about taking lessons to learn to fly a helicopter and he wanted to write. Maybe he was always a well-natured, kind-hearted guy, but it's always nice to encounter that among people.

He was a talented artist, a thoughtful person, and a kind man. I don't know what more I can say. Or what higher compliment I can say about anyone.


Articles Published the Week of April 5th

The Rumpus Interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht

I've long been a great admirer and reader of Jennifer Michael Hecht. Her nonfiction books have been a great influence on my life. Doubt is one of the great books about atheism and the history of doubt and questioning in the Western cultural tradition. The Happiness Myth is a thoughtful and fascinating portrait about how happiness has been defined and redefined by one culture after another over the centuries. She's also a gifted poet who has published three books including most recently, Who Said.

Her most recent book Stay is a book about suicide. It is a look at how cultures have considered suicide and the reasons against suicide - which recur time and again across cultures. As one who has struggled with depression for much of my life, there's a lot in the book that spoke to me and that I could relate to. It's a book that I think everyone should read because people should have to address these ideas in their own lives. It should be something we carry with us, even in those times that are hard–especially in those times where it's so hard to continue.

In the end, the book is a plea, asking all of us, to stay.

Articles Published the Week of March 22nd

Stan Sakai prepares for the long-awaited return of "Usagi Yojimbo"

I've long been a fan of "Usagi Yojimbo,"and after two years the series is returning this year. I was thrilled that I was asked to talk with him about the book and we had a god conversation about returning to the book, what he's been doing for the past two years and how it's affected his work, and more.

David Michelinie talks Ant-Man, Iron Man's alcoholism, "BOZZ Chronicles" and more

Michelinie has had an incredible career in comics. There are long runs writing "Action Comics" and  "The Amazing Spider-Man," two of the biggest, most iconic comics in the world. He wrote or co-wrote the definitive run on "Iron Man." If all you know about the character is what you know from the Robert Downey Jr. movies, then that character owes a lot to what he did. He also created Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man, aka Paul Rudd in this summer's movie). He also created a really interesting short-lived series from the 1980's, "The BOZZ Chronicles" about an alien in Victorian England, which is finally being collected this summer.

Peter Bagge revisits his joke-telling, cartoon-making "Sweatshop"

Peter Bagge has been one of the funniest people in comics longer than I've been reading comics. Fantagraphics has published a collection of the short-lived series that DC published. "Sweatshop" is about the young cartoonists who do the actual work of creating a bad comic strip which is credited to an aging hack. It's a lot of fun

Articles Published the Week of March 15th

The Afterlife of the Voice: An Interview with Peter Gizzi

I've long been a fan of Peter Gizzi's poetry - and as I relate in the article's introduction, Gizzi and I met once many years ago - and we had the chance to talk about his new book, In Defense of Nothing, a selected volume of his poetry which Gizzi himself selected. We spoke about how he found a new context and order for the poems and the idea of a poem as a journey, and considering the life of a writer.

Rhianna Pratchett: Tomb Raider

Rhianna Pratchett has been writing video games for years and her work on Tomb Raider has been a huge hit. She's currently writing the Dark Horse comic series Tomb Raider, which will lead into the new video game Rise of the Tomb Raider, which will come out at the end of the year. We spoke about comics, video games, and since I had her, I asked a little about The Watch and Wee Free Men.

Doug TenNapel talks unearthing the sprawling epic of "Nnewts"

TenNapel has been making comics and working in video games and animation for years. Right now the man is as busy as he's ever been. Scholastic is publishing a new series of graphic novels, "Nnewts," the first volume of which is out now. He's also executive producer of the new "VeggieTales in the House" series from Netflix and Dreamworks. He's also the designer of "Armikrog," the video game which will be coming out later this year.


Articles Published the Week of March 8th

The Rumpus interview with LaShonda Katrice Barnett

I really loved Jam on the Vine, the debut novel of LaShonda Katrice Barnett, who has crafted an incredible novel about the early 20th Century, the black press, Red Summer of 1919, the way that incarceration has always been a part of African-American life. It's an incredible portrait of a time period and a place, but it's also incredibly contemporary in its concerns and values.

It's an incredible book, one of the best new books I've read so far this year, and I was so thrilled that I had the opportunity to speak with her about the book and the many issues embedded within the novel. We also spoke about her play, L'Echange, which will be staged in New York in May, interviewing and much more. I love the book and Barnett is someone whose name will be coming up a lot in the years to come.


Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize Finalists

Slate is one of those publications that does a good job of covering comics and the Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies just announced the nominees for the third annual Cartoonist Studio Prize.

There's some incredible, brilliant people on this list. (Also, I notice that I've interviewed more than half of them in the past year). I'll admit that I prefer Kerascoet's other 2014 release, Beauty to Beautiful Darkness, but that may just be a question of my own taste - both books are excellent. The winners will be announced in next month's Slate Book Review.

The Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Print Comic of the Year:

The Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Web Comic of the Year:

Colin McEnroe and The Tournament of Books

Every year the website The Morning News holds "The Tournament of Books" which puts sixteen works of fiction from the previous year up against each other in brackets.

What makes it really interesting is the fact that most awards just present a winner, but here at every stage of the process, the judges have to explain and articulate their thoughts.

Colin McEnroe, who hosts an hour long show every weekday at WNPR in Hartford invited three of us onto the show - after having read all the books - to talk about them. So Julia Pistell and Rand Richards Cooper and I read a lot this calendar year.

We were asked at the end to name our pick for which book should win and I selected The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I'm a huge David Mitchell fan as I said on the show and as many people know. I would have loved to have had a long conversation about the fifth section of the book, which I think it's so clearly the book's weak spot.

Still, it was a lot of fun to talk books with other people. Colin said that if there's any blame, then I deserve some of it, and I'm happy to take it.

Articles published the week of March1st

John Bolton reveals the unusual macabre of "Shame"

John Bolton is one of those incredible painters in comics. He's been producing some of the most beautiful pages in comics for more than three decades. Recent years there have been some great new editions of books like "Marada the She-Wolf," "The Black Dragon," "Someplace Strange." Bolton hasn't stopped working, though. He's been painting the miniseries "Shame," the third volume of which has just been released.

Nadja Spiegelman shares how she got "Lost in NYC"

Nadja Spiegelman has a new graphic novel she wrote coming out in April from Toon Books. "Lost in NYC" is a gorgeous collaboration with the Spanish artist Sergio Garcia Sanchez that centers around the subway and features an incredibly designed page layouts making for a book that's designed for kids but is something that adults will find incredible.

The book is also being released in a simultaneous Spanish-language edition and the duo will be on tour for the book next month:


Articles Published the Week of February 22nd

Erika Moen reveals the secrets behind the funny, educational "Oh Joy, Sex Toy"

I'm a huge fan of Erika Moen's work. This dates back to "DAR," her autobiographical webcomic, which to my mind remains one of the really important and influential works of American comics in the 21st century. Her current project is "Oh Joy, Sex Toy," which is funny and educational and a really interesting work that I always read. I've met Erika a few times over the years and I always get a feel for her in her work

JP Ahonen on drawing bears, "Sing No Evil" and the Finnish Comics Scene

Way back in the fall I got to sit down with JP Ahonen and we spoke about his great graphic novel "Sing No Evil" which is incredibly fun and really interesting. We spoke about the book - and he's currently working on a sequel - working on weekly comic strips and how they differe from the graphic novel, and what the Finnish comics scene is like. (He gives a few shout outs and recommendations of people we should be reading)

John Romita, Sr. reflects on his Spider-Man legacy, Gwen Stacy's death and Stan Lee

One of the defining artists of the Silver Age of American Comics, and next only to Jack Kirby, the artist who defined Marvel Comics, John Romita, Sr. doesn't draw much anymore, but I had the opportunity to speak with him shortly after his 85th birthday. A fabulous artist, a true gentleman

Lisa Unger: Crazy Love You

I like supernatural thrillers, but honestly, I tend to like them more in theory than in practice. It's more about taste, really, but I loved Lisa Unger's new novel "Crazy Love You." Part of the reason is that the book is as much a character drama as it is a thriller. I read the entire book in about a day and it was just a fabulous book so we spoke about how she works and the way this book was a change form her typical approach.



I suffer from depression. And when I saw that, I mean that I regularly suffer from agonizing physical and emotional symptoms . And I've spent the majority of February in the midst of one of the more brutal bouts of depression I've ever experienced. There were a few days where I was unable to do much of anything besides boil water, and not go back to bed, because I was so overwhelmed with feelings of worthlessness. That I was a middle aged failure who is alone and will always be alone and that there's no reason to continue living.

This reinforced itself because I don't have anyone I could turn to who would lend a hand. And thus helping my sense of worthlessness. There is something about being alone which can be difficult. And of course being alone and depressed makes it difficult to go out and meet people which just means you're alone and so that.... It's a reinforcing loop.

And so I remain alone. I don't really see that changing any time soon, to be honest. But I have managed to get out of the brutal black pit of my depression. That's not to say that I'm a happy person. Though I have smiled this week.  That's a start.