Tag: Uncivilized Books

Sunday: Covering Eel Mansions and Superbowl Tips

Superbowl Sundays are pretty great if you’re into football. They maybe even better if you’re not… A lot of places that would normally be packed on Sunday become deserted when the game begins. For example, did you know skiing becomes a close to solitary affair once everyone trades slopes for couches? Consider that a hot tip for the next Superbowl Sunday.

It’s always a cause for celebration when a new cartoonists moves to your town. When Derek Van Gieson arrived in Minneapolis I was pretty excited. We were both MOME contributors and I really liked his work. Almost immediately we started to plan some kind of project Derek could do for Uncivilized Books. That project became Eel Mansions. Eel Mansions was the first time UB undertook a serialization of a larger story (well with the exception of serializing my own Trans-Stories… but that collection is not out… so I guess it doesn’t count… yet!) and nurtured it into a collected edition. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

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Derek’s narrative is loaded with pop culture references, from the Moomin-like Doomin, through the Sienkiewicz New Mutants, to Jack Kirby, Star Wars, Lizard Lords and beyond! I won’t even mention the music references (here’s a taste) because I don’t even know half of them. Part of the fun is excavating those references, influences and easter eggs. Almost from the start the series got small but fiercely loyal following dedicated to disentangling the pop cultural puzzle. Have you seen these epic reviews!? When came time to collect the series into a book… the cover became a serious design problem. I wanted the cover to express the multiplicity of characters and narratives inside… without overloading the cover. What followed was pile of cover ideas, some from me, some from Derek. Some were more abstract, some focused on single characters, some on many. We went back and forth many times…

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Frankly we were getting close to print time and neither of us I was 100% satisfied with any of the covers. Panic!

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this was the final cover almost up until the very end:

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At the last possible minute Derek came up with what turned out to be the perfect cover . It was eye-catching, simple and classic. I guess necessity is the mother of invention.

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Anyway, the book is available now get it here or from your favorite book shop.

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Trans Terra update:

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Getting close!

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Sunday: Critical Cartoons, See Carl Barks’ Weird Panel, Comics Continuum and More

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In last week’s post I mentioned I’d write more about Carl Barks’ Duck by Peter Schilling Jr. (out now from Uncivilized Books). Well, I ended up writing about the Critical Cartoons series as a whole.

When I conceptualized the Critical Cartoons series for Uncivilized Books, I wanted to show the breadth of subjects that could be discussed in the series, and I wanted the first two books to exemplify the opposite ends of a spectrum…

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The first book (Ed vs. Yummy Fur: Or, What Happens When A Serial Comic Becomes a Graphic Novel  by Brian Evenson) took on a key (and under appreciated) work from the comics underground: Yummy Fur by Chester Brown. Yummy Fur is scatological, sacrilegious and challenging. It was a way for Chester Brown to break down not only his inhibitions and beliefs, but also his approach to making comics. To date Yummy Fur has not been reprinted. The only part of Yummy Fur still in print is the collected (and heavily edited) Ed The Happy Clown. In other words this a relatively obscure work that for all it’s influence at the time of publication has been partially forgotten, and become difficult to track down. For me Yummy Fur and comics like it represents one side of the spectrum of the comics continuum. The lost and forgotten self published work, the minor masterpieces, hidden gems, significant early work (or ‘unusual’ late work) of great cartoonists… published by obscure small presses. I would be very happy if the Critical Cartoon series manages to bring some of them out into the light.

The second book, Carl Barks’ Duck, looks at Carl Barks’ Donald Duck stories. Barks’ Donald Ducks could not be more different from Chester’s work. It’s a corporate product. All the characters and situations are owned wholesale by the Disney corporation. And yet Barks’ created an amazing array of stories and characters within that system. His contribution to comics is difficult to measure. He is one of the greats. His work has been almost continuously published around the globe and has influenced comics and cartooning everywhere (for example, Osamu Tezuka was hugely influenced by Barks’ work). Barks’ work represents the other side of the comics continuum: the corporate mainstream. Some are, like Barks’ comics, well documented, examined and easily available. Others were very popular in their time, but have become lost, or—if they are still currently published—changed beyond recognition (for example Captain Marvel / Shazam). Or, there are the occasional moments in time (1986) where artistic experimentation, audience expectations, and corporate willingness to take chances, results in a deluge of interesting work in the mainstream. Some of it (Dark Knight or Watchmen) goes on to influence and create whole new movement. Other (The Shadow or The Question) languish in relative obscurity. This is where many comics readers start. When I was younger (I grew up in Europe), I immersed myself in Marvel and DC universes, or the fantasy / science-fictional worlds of Thorgal, Valerian and Funky Koval… Or in the humor of Lucky Luke, Asterix and Kajko i Kokosz. Eventually I went on to discover (and create) comics closer to Yummy Fur in their sensibility. But this is where I started. There is a lot of work at this end of the spectrum.

For some reason I never got into the Disney comics, and consequently I didn’t encounter the work of Carl Barks until I was much older. Eventually, I became aware of his work, but it was always difficult to know where to start. Barks is a cartoonist whose work is so ubiquitous, beloved and prolific, that it’s hard to know where to start… especially for new readers. Should I read the best works? What are the best works? Are they really the best works? Should I try to read from the beginning? When I approached Peter Schilling Jr. About writing something for Critical Cartoons I was selfishly delighted that he wanted to write about Barks’ Donald Duck comics. Peter went on to write the perfect introduction to the work… and with Fantagraphics’ recent push to reprint all of Barks’ Duck comics, there’s now a perfect time to examine his work again.

Another goal with Critical Cartoons was trying to bring in new voices to comics criticism. Both of the authors (Evenson & Schilling Jr.) are big fans of comics, but in their careers have rarely (if ever) had to opportunity to write about them. I had a hunch that, given an opportunity something interesting might emerge. I was thrilled with Brian’s close reading of minutiae in Brown’s work starting with the dash placed between ‘graphic’ and ‘novel’ to form ‘graphic-novel’ (read this excerpt on TCJ) which subtitled the recent Ed the Happy Clown re-issue. I was also delighted how he unapologetically placed Brown’s work in the continuum of sacrilegious and scatological works that go back centuries.

I loved Peter’s comparison of Donald Duck stories to the classic Hollywood system, where stars like Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart took on a variety of roles, but were often still distinct. Donald fits that bill (sorry)! I was also flabbergasted by the ‘weird’ panel (see below) from Lost in the Andes. It’s such an usual angle and I certainly haven’t seen Barks use it again elsewhere (at least in my limited familiarity with his work). Did he try it out, decide it wasn’t working, and didn’t use that angle again? Barks scholars… any insights?

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Now that the two inaugural volumes of Critical Cartoons are out, it’s time to look forward to next volumes. There are a few new Critical Cartoons project bubbling up. I’ll keep you posted as they develop. Thanks for reading!


In other news I have a new Twitter account: @BetaTestingTomK . Uncivilized Books started as a way to publish my own work. Until now I’ve conflated both identities… I was Uncivilized Books and vice versa. But the publishing house has evolved into something quite different and much larger than me. I don’t want to keep cluttering up the Uncivilized Books ( @unciv ) feed with weird thoughts, random ramblings, architectural drawings or strange theories (though you’ll probably get a bunch of that anyway). It’s time to have a new place for that stuff. If you’re interested in my work subscribe to @BetaTestingTomK or sign up for weekly updates on my new site (or both!)

Next week: Eel Mansions!

Soon: Progress report on Trans Terra: Towards a Cartoon Philosophy!

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Cartoon Dialectics Vol. 1 Back In Print!

While digging through my originals (available for sale here: batch 1 and batch 2, more soon!) I found a bunch of original unused letterpress covers for Cartoon Dialectics Vol. 1! That means I can bring a small edition of these back into print! It’s been sold out for close to two years. I don’t know how many times people have asked me about it at shows. I’m happy to make more! I should be able to get about 40-50 copies made from these. Did I already mention they’re letterpress? It’s the fourth ever comic published on Uncivilized Books! Go get ’em!

Oh, and the original art from this issues’ key story, ‘Ransom Strange,’ is available here: page 1 & page 2.

CAKE 2013

I’ll be at CAKE in Chicago this weekend. I’ll be there running the Uncivilized Books table and signing Beta Testing the Apocalypse at the Fantagraphics table. Uncivilized Books is debuting four (4) (!!) books at the show:

We’ll also have copies of our recent releases by Michael DeForge and Dash Shaw, as well as the  Eisner nominated Post York!!

I will also be showing previews of my upcoming Trans Terra and… Twin Cities Noir where I have an all new 10 page comic (more on that later). It’s going to be an intense weekend! See you all there!

Beta Testing Civilization

BETA TESTING CIVILIZATION

TOM KACZYNSKI

ZAK SALLY . VINCENT STALL . DAN WIEKEN . DEREK VAN GIESON . PETER WARTMAN

You’re invited to celebrate, with cartoonist / publisher Tom Kaczynski, the release of his book Beta Testing the Apocalypse (Fantagraphics) and the unveiling of the Uncivilized Books’ Five Year Plan. He also invited the entire Twin Cities Uncivilized Books artist roster. We know you won’t mind. Many copies of Beta Testing The Apocalypse have been specially released from the bunker and a commemorative red ink will be used in authorizing your copies. After the event, there will be mandatory fun at the Downtown Grumpy’s.

THURSDAY JANUARY, 24. 2013
5 TO 7 PM

BIG BRAIN COMICS
1027 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415 (612) 338-4390

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Comics Reporter Interview

I can’t believe this never got posted on my blog. I’m my own worst enemy! If you haven’t already seen it, I was interviewed by Tom Spurgeon at Comics Reporter. Tom’s questions tended to broader than usual and it felt like looking of my whole comics trajectory from a birds-eye point of view. It was fun conversation. Here’s a sample:

SPURGEON: There’s an anxiety present in a lot of your stories. It seems like the kind of deliberate planning you talk about would be a comfort to a lot of people, that these things are planned. So I find the anxiousness curious. The fact that these thoughts are more arbitrary, or might reflect not-friendly impulses, is that maybe the source of the anxiety?

imageKACZYNSKI: I think the knowledge is comforting, but the anxiety… it’s not even my anxiety but a general anxiety that in the US has been palpable since at least 9/11. There was an apocalyptic mindset. Things are falling apart. Things are coming to a head. There’s a clash of civilizations going on. With the financial crisis, capitalism is cracking, and what does that all mean? I feel like I’m tapping into a little bit of that general anxiety.

Personally I’m interested in utopias as well. That’s something I’m going to be more visible in my other book, the Trans Terra book that’s going to be coming out next year. There’s all this anxiety, and it’s very apocalyptic, and it feels like most people would prefer to see it all crumble as opposed to doing a few small things here and there to make things better. It’s more of a frustration for me more than anxiety. It does come out in the comics as an anxiety. I think it’s difficult to talk about. In the comics, especially the MOME stuff, they’re more literary in that I’m trying to get into the mindset of certain characters and people and how they would react to things where they don’t know there’s an underlying structure.

SPURGEON: Your comics are more focused on the mindset than the breakaway from the structured norm. There is a false apocalypse — you’re not as interested in seeing things fall down as exploring the mindset that believe that things are about to.

KACZYNSKI: Yeah, that’s partly why the book is called Beta-Testing The Apocalypse. [laughter] It’s not the actual apocalypse. We’re feeling it out. It’s hard to say exactly. It’s more like the anxiety of the apocalypse than the apocalypse itself. There’s a whole post-apocalyptic genre, and that’s something I used to be into, but I feel it’s more interesting to find out how it came about. What happens before the apocalypse? Right before it. What needs to happen to society for that to happen. I don’t know if you’ve read Jared Diamond‘s work — the scientist that wrote Guns, Germs and Steel. He also wrote a book about collapses of civilizations. That’s another interest of mine — ancient civilizations, and trying to imagine ourselves as a civilization that could end. How that could come about, and what mind set we’d need to get into to release and let go and let the whole thing crumble.

Read the rest here.