I've had a copy of J.T. Yost's Xeric Award winning book, Old Man Winter and Other Sordid Tales for at least a couple weeks now. And it's got some good stuff in it – easy to see why it caught the eyes of the Xeric Grant folks. The first tale, "OId Man Winter" is new (the other stories in the book have all appeared elsewhere previously) and is a well-done small story with a lot of emotional punch about an old man's small circuit in life. It has the feel of a good character-driven indie movie and I'd recommend the book and future work from Yost on the basis of it alone.
BELLEN! by Brian "Box" Brown is a journal comic about a fictional couple (really!) named Ben and Ellen (hence, "Bellen"). It's one of those comics that has shown great strides as its creator improves over time. Brown has really come into his own in the last year and Bellen! is a real treat. It has a lot of the wistfulness of Peanuts in it (there's often something Charlie Brown like about main character Ben) but it's not really similar and the artwork continues to go in interesting directions. Very recently Brown won a Xeric grant for and then self-published a collection of Bellen! based on work he originally did for the Top Shelf 2.0 webcomic portal. I got a chance to interview him last month over email.
Ali Graham is the creator of Nobody's Business, Afterstrife and HOUSD. I first discovered Graham reading Afterstrife, which follows two characters through their afterlife. It's kind of like Moonlighting meets Dante. The more recent Nobody's Business is based on a film Graham worked on over last fall and into this year. Graham is one of a small but growing group of webcomics creators in the UK. I got a chance to interview him via email over the last month about his current projects.
Brian Babendererde started serializing his comic Soul Chaser Betty on the web in 2001. Later in 2003, it became one of the titles on the Graphic Smash anthology website. Serialization of the comic continued throughout 2004 until the story was finished. I know — a webcomic adventure tale with a beginning and an end, fully published online within approximately four years. Normally that might take a decade or more! Okay maybe a slight exageration, but it strikes me that Babendererde's initial run on Betty is no small accomplishment, given how many dramatic, longer-form comics run off the rails for long hiatuses before finishing (if ever).
So why are we talking about a webcomic dating from the beginning of the decade? Well in 2007 Bebendererde went back to the comic to redo many of the panels and re-work some of the story, in preparation for publication as a stand-alone graphic novel in print. The book has been available for awhile but more recently Bebendererde placed it in the Diamond monthly catalog making it available to comic book stores. I was interested in talking with Bebendererde about how the new push for the book is going and what it's like to work on a specific comic over the course of almost a decade.
Planet Saturday by Monty Kane bills itself as "adventures in childhood and parenthood" and it is a charming collection of tales of Emory (who is basically a stand-in for Monty), roughly half with him as a child and half with him as an adult, father of a daughter. It in some ways suggests that the comic is really about Monty himself but it doesn't feel biographical as the stories seem to be more universal than uniquely revealing of one person. There's a touch of nostaglia at times, but particularly in the stories with the Emory as father and the daughter Dot it's also very much about two well-drawn characters and their father-daughter relationship. Maybe it's simply because I'm a dad with daughters myself, but I do enjoy these stories.
I got a chance to interview both Monty and his wife Kelli Stevens Kane by email this month about the comic and its first collection in print.
Leroy Brown is the creator of Ice Cubes about a motley crew of characters living within the Artic Circle in Alaska. I had not been previously familiar with Brown’s work, but he submitted a design for the February cover art to ComixTALK that I liked and wound up using. It’s got a similar set up to Tyler Martin’s Wally & Osborne, but beyond updating more regularly the last year (hey now! rim crash… I"ll be here all week folks!), it’s just a different animal entirely. The comic is very new (unfortunately the website doesn’t currently have a very navigation-friendly set-up but you can get through the archives by clicking on the "strips" category) so it’s easy to check out the archives to date.
Read on for my interview with Brown about his comic Ice Cubes.
Waltz With Bashir (subtitled "A Lebanon War Story") by Ari Folman and David Polonsky is a graphic novel adaptation of the animated film of the same name. I have not seen the film yet (although I fully intend to – the trailer looks quite intense). Ari Folman, wrote, produced, and directed the animated documentary and wrote this graphic novel version as well. David Polonsky was the art director and chief illustrator for the movie from which the art in the comic comes from (it’s not entirely clear whether the images in the book are altered in any way from their appearance in the movie). It is Folman’s own story and it appears it is a pretty faithful attempt to chronicle his attempts to fill in his memories of his own military service in the Israel-Lebanan war.
Tales from Outer Suburbia is the latest book from uber-talented artist Shaun Tan, following his wordless graphic novel, The Arrival. Tan is not really an experimental cartoonist – these are highly satisfying books that don’t really feel like they’re pushing formalist boundaries and yet his two books each refuse to stay within the expectations of the "graphic novel" format. I’m not sure Scott McCloud would concede that either one is actually a comic!
Erfworld is a hilarious adventure comic set in a world that seems to operate according to the laws of a role playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. The main character Parson is from our world and he is suddenly thrust into the world of Erfworld in the midst of a titantic battle between various factions. It's funny on a lot of levels. Yes you will probably laugh more and longer if you've ever played a role playing game but even if you haven't Rob Balder's wordplay and Jamie Noguchi's artwork will still entertain you.
Rob Balder is well known to many webcomic creators and readers for his work on Partially Clips, a satirical comic that uses clip art. He's also a musician and an associate editor of the fiction and fandom 'zine Nth Degree. We interviewed Rob for ComixTALK once before back in 2004. Jamie Noguchi currently has a day job as a self-described "multimedia monkey" for NASA and used to work as a colorist with UDON Entertainment. He also illustrates various things including Erfworld and hopes to someday move into doing full time illustration.
I've known Rob and Jamie for years now – I met Rob initially at SPX and have hung out with both at local Washington Webcomics meetings. They both strike me as passionate about comics and story-telling and I was not at all surprised at the success of Erfworld. I got a chance to interview them by email about the state of Erfworld and plans for 2009.