Thursday, March 23, 2017

Comics Alternative Podcast: Brian Cremins Interview

I'm back on a very special (for me, at least) episode of The Comics Alternative! This week I join regular co-hosts Derek Royal and Andy Kunka for an interview with Brian Cremins, Harper College professor of English and author of Captain Marvel and the Art of Nostalgia (University Press of Mississippi).

Why is this episode special to me? Because Brian and I met as graduate students at the University of Connecticut more than two decades ago, and he's one of my closest friends. When I moved to the Chicago area a couple of years ago, Brian and his partner Allison Felus welcomed me to town and helped make me feel at home with their friendship and generosity (and their musical appearances!).

Plus, of course, there's Brian's book, which is thoughtful, articulate, and unexpected as academic monographs go. It's smart and engaging, and quite personal at the same time. Brian's answers in this interview will give you a very good idea of the wide-ranging ideas and topics you can expect when you read his book. And you should! 

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes or many other streaming services.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast #215: Fourth Annual Thanksgiving Show

This is a super-sized episode of The Comics Alternative! This week I join regular co-hosts Derek Royal and Andy Kunka, along with other co-hosts Edward Gauvin, Sean Kleefeld, Gwen Athene Tarbox, and Andy Wolverton, for a discussion of what we're all thankful for in comics over the past year. Yes, seven voices! But I think the conversation is remarkably chaos-free, and full of lots of good recommendations as well as information about comics studies and culture of many stripes. Hope you can join us for a collegial and fun 76 minutes!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes. or many other streaming services.

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Monday, November 07, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast: A Roundtable Discussion on Political Comics

I'm back to co-host another episode of The Comics Alternative! This week, Derek Royal and I host a roundtable discussion on political comics and cartoons, just in time for tomorrow's Presidential election.

Our guests are Richard Graham, author of Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s (Abrams ComicArts); Rafael Medoff, co-author (along with Craig Yoe) of Cartoonists against the Holocaust (Clizia Inc.); Kent Worcester, editor of Silent Agitators: Cartoon Art from the Pages of New Politics (New Politics Associates); and Fredrik Strömberg, author of Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History (St. Martin’s Griffin).

It's a wide-ranging talk covering history, culture, publishing, academia, and more. All of our guests brought unique insights to our virtual table. We hope you enjoy the discussion!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast #196: The Stranger, Snot Girl #1, and Frontier #12

It's been too long, but I'm finally back co-hosting another episode of The Comics Alternative! This week, Derek Royal and I review Jacques Ferrandez' adaptation of Albert Camus' The Stranger (Pegasus Books);  issue #1 of Bryan Lee O'Malley and Leslie Hung's new ongoing series Snot Girl (Image Comics); and issue #12 of the single-creator anthology Frontier, featuring Kelly Kwang's "Space Youth Cadet" story-world (Youth in Decline)--oh, and we sneak in a few words about Frontier #6, Emily Carroll's "Ann by the Bed."

Unlike Derek, who has studied Camus extensively, I approached The Stranger as a complete novice. I'd of course heard a bit about the book (and Camus and his philosophy), but this was the first time I'd ever really encountered any of it, even second-hand. So although we both find a lot to recommend the book, our responses come from very different places.

Snot Girl strikes me as a book that either doesn't exactly know its audience yet, or (quite possibly) sets up a lot of story concepts in issue #1 which it intends to challenge as the series progresses. (The ever-present dangers inherent in reviewing only the first chapter of an on-going narrative!)

I wasn't aware of Frontier before, but after reading these two issues, I'm a convert, and I'll be hunting down past and upcoming issues. I'm a fan of Emily Carroll's dark folktale-like stories, and #6's "Ann by the Bed" presents a wholly believable "urban legend"--and its dark history. Kelly Kwang's "Space Youth Cadet" issue (#12) builds up an entire story world, while never quite telling a story itself. But that is no shortcoming; the book's use of gaming iconography and ephemera (computers, cards, apparel, more!) upload informative narrative subroutines directly into the reader's brain. I want to see more!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Monday, June 06, 2016

CFP: Disability and Superheroes / essay collection (June 30)

Call for Papers
Disability and Superheroes
essay collection

We invite abstracts for essays to be published in a collection showcasing new work on the representation and conceptualization of disability in superhero comics. We encourage examinations of mainstream titles and characters (such as those published by Marvel and DC) as well as considerations of other texts that engage disability and the superhero genre in creative ways (such as Cece Bell’s El Deafo). We are especially interested in contributions that explore additional intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender.

We especially welcome essays on specific characters, writer/artists or storylines, rather than essays more broadly conceived (for example, a proposal for an essay devoted to a particular issue of Lee/Colan-era Daredevil would have a higher chance of acceptance than one simply on Daredevil, a series published by Marvel for over 50 years).

The collection envisions a diverse selection of contributors (scholars from the humanities, comics studies, and disability studies; disability activists; comics creators; medical professionals; comics journalism; and so on) that represent a range of perspectives, methodologies, and communities. The contents of the collection may be likewise diverse, including essays by individual and collaborative authors, interviews, and/or creative work.

The editors welcome inquiries by email. Please submit 400-word abstracts and 50-word bios by June 30, 2016. After reviewing submissions, the editors will select contributors and then submit a proposal for publication by a university press.

Final essays will be approximately 5,000-7,000 words, but the editors are also open to shorter submissions.

José Alaniz, University of Washington,
Scott Smith, Penn State University,

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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Comics Alternative Interview: Evan Dorkin, Part 2

It seems like just yesterday that I posted about a new Comics Alternative podcast, yet here we go again, with Derek Royal and myself presenting the second part of our epic, two-part interview with cartoonist Evan Dorkin. Today we continue on with Evan's discussion of Beasts of Burden, the animal "supernatural mystery" comic he co-creates with artist Jill Thompson. Read some older "Beasts" material online here, and watch for a new one-shot, "What the Cat Dragged In," in comics shops on May 4!

We cover a lot of other ground as well, including the new Lovecraftian "Calla Cthulhu" series he's co-writing with Sarah Dyer (with art by Erin Humiston) for the Stela app. Really, there's too much to try and summarize here; though if you listened to yesterday's show, you already have a sense of how wide-ranging Evan's interests and passions are. Give it a listen!

Oh, and just for the heck of it, here is some of my vintage Dorkinalia collection:

Milk and Cheese fridge magnets, and a die from the WIZARD board game!
And World's Funnest buttons!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Monday, March 07, 2016

Comics Alternative Interview: Evan Dorkin, Part 1

Today on The Comics Alternative, Derek Royal and I present the first part of our epic, two-part interview with cartoonist Evan Dorkin. We reviewed his recent collection The Eltingville Club just a couple of weeks ago, so we begin today's interview with Evan by discussing the "Eltingville" strips and TV pilot in some detail, before starting into Beasts of Burden, the absolutely wonderful series he co-creates with artist Jill Thompson.

Evan is just as funny an interview subject as he is a cartoonist, but he's also incredibly thoughtful about his own work. There's a lot of laughter in this interview, but also a lot of reflective commentary from him.

I've been a fan of Dorkin's work for over two decades now, and it was great to be able to spend so much time speaking with him about his career. As proof of my longtime fandom, here's a sketch he was nice enough to do for me at a comics convention back in 1996; my sketchbook's theme is "Draw one of your characters reading their favorite book," and Evan gifted me with this perfectly appropriate drawing of Milk and Cheese:

Be sure to click and read the TV GOD cover blurbs! © 1996, 2016 Evan Dorkin.

Check back tomorrow for Part Two of this interview, which gets into lots of Evan's other comics, plus broader issues of comics history, business, and culture

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

March 2: My Will Eisner Week Lecture at Northwestern University Library

Will Eisner Week, celebrated the week of March 6 each year, promotes graphic novels, literacy, free speech awareness, and the legacy of legendary cartoonist Will Eisner. I'm happy to be participating this year by giving a talk at Northwestern University Library on Wednesday, March 2, at 5:00pm:
Will Eisner: Pioneering Cartoonist, Visionary Educator 
Widely regarded as the "Father of the Graphic Novel," cartoonist Will Eisner spent his entire career chasing the Next Big Idea - and usually finding it. With a body of work encompassing some of the earliest American comic books, The Spirit Sunday newspaper supplements, U.S. Army preventative maintenance manuals, one of the very first graphic novels, and a small library of books on comics theory and practice, Eisner influenced several generations of artists and educators. 
Comics historian Gene Kannenberg, Jr. will present an illustrated look at Eisner's work and legacy: The development of comic art into both a literary form and a tool for education.
We also have a small Eisner-centric display in our New Book Nook, including both books to check out as well as rarer items from my own personal collection.

The display wall in the New Book Nook

The Spirit
More works by Eisner

Books about Eisner and his role in American comics

See the Northwestern Events Calendar or the Facebook Event listings for more information. I'm proud that my employer is supporting Will Eisner Week this year, and I hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast #175: The Eltingville Club, Cry Havoc #1, The Dark & Bloody #1

Today on The Comics Alternative, Derek Royal and I review The Eltingville Club, which collects all of Evan Dorkin's cringingly hilarious stories of a group of comics/sf/horror/fantasy/RPG teen creeps; Cry Havoc #1, the not-exactly lesbian werewolf story by Simon Spurrier and Ryan Kelly; and The Dark & Bloody #1, Shawn Aldridge and Scott Godlewski's tale of moonshine and mystery.

Dorkin's work has always been a favorite of mine, and it's great to have all of his "Eltingville" stories (plus!) collected. Cry Havoc and The Dark & Bloody aren't exactly my normal cup of tea, but I gained new appreciation for both of them while discussing them with Derek. That's one of the things I love about doing this podcast; I always learn a lot from our conversations. I hope you enjoy them, too.

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

CFP: Comics & Graphic Narrative Circle / ALA (Jan. 29; May 26-29)

Call for Papers
Comics and Graphic Narrative Circle
27th Annual Conference: May 26-29, 2016
Hyatt Regency San Francisco
5 Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

The Comics & Graphic Narrative Circle welcomes abstracts for presentation at two sessions on comics at the 2016 ALA conference in SanFrancisco.

Session One: Women in the Comics Industry

Although women have been part of the comics industry in the United States since its beginning, the last few years have seen a massive growth in popular and critically-acclaimed comics by women creators, along with increasing attention to female fans and the representation of women characters. The increased prominence of women comes as a direct challenge to the image of the white male nerd as the quintessential comics consumer, and to the preponderance of men in positions of power within the industry. We invite submissions dealing with any facet of women in the comics industry. In what ways have major comics corporations (Marvel, DC, Image) responded or failed to respond to questions of women’s representation at the level of characters and stories, or at the level of opportunities for writers, artists, and editors? In what ways have series such as Ms. Marvel, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, or Bitch Planet, imprints such as Boom! Box (publishers of Lumberjanes), or influential creators such as Kelly Sue DeConnick altered our understanding of the market for feminist comics? How have women shaped the comics industry as it now exists? What can we learn from the careers of women editors such as Karen Berger (who oversaw DC’s massively influential imprint Vertigo) or Francoise Mouly (who edited the avant garde comics anthology RAW and is now art editor for the New Yorker)? Do feminist stories require different artistic approaches at the level of story structure and style?
Session Two: Open Topic

We invite submissions on any topics regarding comics.

Please email an abstract (of no more than 350 words) and a brief biographical note to Ben Novotny Owen ( and David M. Ball ( no later than January 29th.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast: Tom Hart Interview

On this episode of The Comics Alternative, Derek Royal and I welcome cartoonist and educator Tom Hart. His graphic memoir Rosalie Lightning (St. Martin's Press) will be published tomorrow.

This wide-ranging discussion focuses primarily on Rosalie Lightning, an extraordinarily moving rumination on life, and death, and grieving, and memory, and celebration, and endurance, and art, and love. It chronicles how Tom and his wife, cartoonist Leela Corman, continued on after the sudden death of their daughter Rosalie Lightning just days before her second birthday. (You can read versions of the first two chapters here - and also, read Leela's hauntingly beautiful comics "Yahzeit" and "PTSD: The Wound that Never Heals.") Rosalie Lightning is a powerful and meaningful book. You'll be hearing a lot about it--and not just from comics-specific commentators, I'll wager.

We also talk a bit about some of Tom's earlier comics work, his hands-on process, and his general approach to art. And Tom tells us about The Sequential Artists Workshop which he and Leela established in Gainesville, FL, a training program a new generation of cartoonists. (SAW is currently holding a fundraiser which is worth your attention.)

On a personal note: I first "met" Tom over twenty years ago on an email list, and we met in person a few times at SPX in the late 1990s. I met Leela then, too. I grieved when I learned the news about Rosalie, though I had never met her. Just about two years ago, I got to see Leela and Tom again, along with their recently born daughter Molly Rose: Leela was one of the cartoonists featured in the "Graphic Jews" exhibit at Skidmore College's Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, and the family traveled up to Saratoga Springs so Leela could be a guest on a panel I co-moderated in conjunction with the exhibit. (Darling Molly Rose nibbled on my fingers a bit during the pre-panel dinner.) Tom and Leela are both wonderful people and amazing artists.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast #169: The January Previews Catalog

It seems like only a couple of days since I was last on The Comics Alternative, but today I'm back with Derek Royal as we take a stroll through the latest Previews catalog, pointing out books of interest to us amongst the thousands that will go on sale in a few months.

I'm not going to pretend to list everything we talk about here, but I will highlight three books I'm most excited about: The Complete TRUMP (Harvey Kurtzman); Carpet Sweeper Tales (Julie Doucet); and The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (Sonny Liew). However, if I had all the money in the world, I'd be buying all of the books below, and then some!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Comics Alternative Podcast Interview: @YoeBooks' Craig Yoe

It's the first installment of the Comics Alternative podcast for 2016! Derek Royal and I say "Happy New Yoe!" as we welcome back Craig Yoe for another interview. We discuss the most recent hardcover comic book reprint collections from Yoe Books, including Ghost and Girls of Fiction House, The Complete Voodoo vol. 1, Horror by Heck, Walt Kelly's Fairy Tales, and Weird Love vol. 2 (plus we sneak in a little talk about the upcoming Haunted Love title). We talk a good bit about the process of putting these books together: Collecting the materials; working with collaborators like Michael Price and Mike Howlett; and the editing, production, and design processes which Craig shares with Yoe Books co-founder Clizia Gossoni (who, I believe, makes a cameo appearance or two in the recording!).

I got a huge kick out of all of these books. The old horror comics are all over the map in terms of story and art types--if all you're familiar with are the old EC titles like Tales from the Crypt, these stories will surprise you with their variety. The romance stories in Weird Love most definitely live up to their billing. And the Walt Kelly book is truly a marvel to behold.

Craig's a longtime friend of the podcast, as well as a friend of mine in real life. It's always great to catch up with him and talk about cool--and often really, really strange!--old comics. In fact, after we stopped recording, we came up with an idea or two for future shows with Craig which would go in a very different direction indeed, and I hope we get to do them.

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Comics Alternative Podcast #166: Killing and Dying; Taddle Creek; Barrier; iTunes Terms and Conditions

I'm back again on the Comics Alternative podcast, and this time I join Derek Royal for an over-stuffed review show with some really excellent comics! We cover Adrian Tomine's ambitious new collection Killing and Dying; the jam-packed Canadian anthology Taddle Creek #36; the genre-blending digital comic Barrier #1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente; and both parts of R. Sikoryak's ridiculously thorough (and thoroughly entertaining) adaptation of, yes, the iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement.
This is a particularly strong group of books - we spent nearly two hours talking, though it didn't seem that long at the time!
As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Comics Alternative Podcast #163: Thanksgiving

It's the annual Thanksgiving episode of the Comics Alternative podcast! This year I join Derek Royal, Andy Kunka, and Andy Wolverton for another wide-ranging discussion about some of the things we're thankful for in the world of comics. Cartoonist guests? Oh, yeah! Publishers? Yup! Kickstarter? Sure! Listeners and patrons? Why, of course! Our Comics Alternative colleagues? Naturally! Other podcasts? Indeed! Other academics and librarians? Affirmative! Marvel Comics? Whaaat?

All this and more - give it a listen!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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