Joan Reilly makes comics. A established illustrator she moved last year from Brooklyn to Kutztown. Imagine that! She is co-editor along with Shannon O’Leary of the acclaimed comics anthology, The Big Feminist But. Originally published via Kickstarter, the book has been republished twice by Alternative Comics.
An exhibition of artwork from the book is now appearing on the walls of Eckhaus Gallery, 157 W. Main, Kutztown, PA. The opening reception is Saturday, April 8, 6-8pm. Info here.
The show features work by many important artists including: Gabrielle Bell, Jeffrey Brown, Vanessa Davis, Shaenon Garrity, Justin Hall, Shannon O’Leary, Sarah Oleksyk, Virginia Paine, Mark Pritchard, Joan Reilly, and many more.
Jeffrey Brown lent his original sketchbook with the comics pages he contributed to the anthology. Observers will note he is one of the few cartoonists who draws his work smaller than the size it will be printed.
The artwork on display at Eckhaus beautifully drawn. It is clear that the artist care about their work. Kutztown may not become the next Brooklyn, but we are fortunate to have this exhibition in town.
My illustration students, some of whom have ambitions to be cartoonists, had the chance to see the show thanks to Olivia Knowles, one of the Eckhaus directors. My students seems particularly impressed with the story dealing with gender identity by Virginia Paine, below.
As Heidi McDonald of Publisher’s Weekly says on the back of the book, “The Big Feminist But Kicks Ass.” If you can’t make the opening, the show runs until April 16, or ask for the Big Feminist But wherever books are sold.
He may not be a household name, but you have seen his work. Dane Lachiusa drew the cartoons that appeared on your Snapple caps, sketched goofy images for Nickelodeon’s earliest website, and drew cartoons that covered the walls of your local Starbucks. He also drew the quirky images you may have noticed on your large soda cup at Blimpies.
Dane was good enough to come from his home in Brooklyn to talk to a group of Kutztown University students at New York’s Society of Illustrators. He came as a favor to his friend and former co-worker, KU Prof. Ann Lemon.
He was frank and engaging. He passed around his sketchbook. He told us today’s illustration market is competitive. You are not only competing with all the other illustration grads, but also art directors who might do the illustration in a pinch. He ought to know, he’s been an art director, too.
Dane calls himself a self-taught illustrator even though he studied advertising at NY’s School of Visual Arts and worked as a designer at major ad agencies. Sometimes he needed quirky drawings fast and nothing is faster than drawing them himself. He also drew keyframes for commercials.
Dane says illustration is a business of relationships. He actively works at building creative relationships by inviting artists he admires to work with him on projects.
For Example: With his new comic book anthology, Welcome To Dadsville, he engineered the opportunity to work with Box Brown , Cole Closser, and a host of other hot comics artists. Dane’s own graphic contribution to the book, entitled Raw Hamburger, can be read here.
The Kutztown students came away inspired by Dane’s energy. To see more of his work check out his website. He has another mind-blowing art project inspired by the work of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Dane paints homages to the two masters on a single canvas under the name Pablo Matisse. You need to see it to believe it, here.
Rachel Zuppo is going to New York City. She is a student at Kutztown U from Philadelphia. She made a zine, or mini comic, about an interesting date she had in Philly’s Chinatown. She will be bringing her mini comic to MoCCAfest 2016.
These two panels are from the opening spread of her All the Tea in Chinatown. Cartoonists known that their opening pages should include a strong establishing shot. Rachel certainly succeeds here.
Kutztown will be among a select group of colleges at MoCCAfest, the indie comic showcase in New York City. Most of the other tables will be small presses, large presses, distributors and independent comics creators. There will be stars there: Cece Bell creator of Newbery Honor winner El Deafo and illustrator/animator Bill Plympton. Sample art by other wonderful exhibitors can be found on the MoCCA’s Tumblr pages.
Kutztown University’s Communication Design Dept pays for the table space at MoCCA. This event is a great opportunity for our students to compare their work with projects from other art programs and meet indy publishers and artists. MoCCA’s general admission is just $5 a day, a bargain for an art fest. Look for Kutztown at Table 114 next to TOON BOOKS.
12 students from our Illustration 2 class are showing their stuff at MoCCA, Sat. April 2 at Metropolitan West, 639 West 46th St, NYC. I’ll be there with their zines on Sunday, too. All of the books were completed across the first eight weeks of this semester.
Yu Wen Sun, who goes by Sue, is Rachel’s buddy. Sue is an exchange student from Tunxi, Huangshan, Anhui, China. She tells us her hometown is smaller than Kutztown. Hard to believe. Her My Friend is A Freak! is a story of of an outsider searching for a friend, and (spoiler alert!) befriending another outsider. Sue got help with the English text from her Philly friend Rachel.
A number of students added stickers as a bonus to their zine. Most of these zines are under $5. Sue’s My Friend is a Freak! is a bargain at $3. This is the third time Kutztown has tabled at MoCCA. This year’s entires are varied, but many have horror and suspense themes.
Meredith Shriner’s A Most Bothersome Bat demonstrates her great potential as a children’s book illustrator. Elaine Knox’s work, below, is cleverly designed with a ghostly overlay printed on transparent paper.
Here is a detail from Kristen DeMelfy’s Inseparable. She manages give great form to her figures even in black and white. Like many of the other stories Inseparable has the potential to be expanded into a longer story.Hannah Faber’s Kruikje has a fanciful mid-century feel. Her colors are a tad off-register making her digital printout resemble a risograph or linocut. We have lots more artwork to see, but here below is a page from Katelynn Chamber’s Self Talk, a more serious project about the issue of body image.
Hope to see old friends at MoCCA. I am always inspired by the work of young illustrators from great schools like FIT, or SAW, or CCS and Kutztown University. Thanks to Lindsay Trzaska for designing our banners. If you make it to MoCCA you will find us at table 114.
I will share photos and more student work from MoCCA next week.
I was driving in my car and heard a radio interview with Randall Munroe. The author and illustrator of Thing Explainer was speaking on Science Friday. I was stunned when host Ira Flatow said to Munroe, “Before you were a full-time comics artist you were a roboticist at NASA…” YOW! I thought, “How can I do science comics for kids if NASA engineers are making comics?”
I saw his wonderful book and I calmed down as I realized his bestseller is far different than anything I will ever write. Munroe uses only the most 1000 common English language words to explain science. Cells are called, “tiny bags of water you’re made of.” The Mars Rover is “the Space Car for the Red World.” It is a chill formalist exercise I appreciate, but I am not likely to ever try myself.
Munroe is not the only scientist turned comic book artist, however. I met Maris Wicks at the Miami Book Fair. She is a museum educator at Boston’s New England Aquarium. She was signing copies of her hit informational comic book, Human Body Theater. That book made School Library Journal’s list of 2015 TOP 10 Graphic Novels for Kids. I have hip friends who used Human Body Theater to teach anatomy to their home-schooled daughter.
Maris Wicks draws in a kid-friendly style. First Second Books sent me a review copy of her new book, Coral Reefs, Cities of the Ocean. It is is quite wonderful. It has a cute Kawaii feel, but still delivers the goods -educational info on the undersea world. When I met Maris in Miami, she was rushing to that airport to draw while she waited in the terminal for her plane back to Boston.
Maris Wicks is quite amazing, she can write, she can draw, and she knows what she is talking about. Plus: she clearly has a professional attitude about deadlines.
Coral Reefs is geared toward middle schoolers, but I read it aloud who to a precocious second-grader who hung on every word. There is one sequence that explains the scientific evidence for global warming. Kids who understand this science will be smarter than several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Imagine that.
Maris Wicks has a great attitude despite the challenges our oceans face. She presents the science, yet manages to be upbeat about the future of the oceans. She tells young readers that even if they live far from the ocean they can help to protect their local ecosystem.
First Second is also releasing another volume in the Science Comics series, Dinosaurs, Fossils and Feathers, written by MK Reed, illustrated by Joe Flood. Years ago I loved John Noble Wilford’s 1985 book, The Riddle of the Dinosaur. This new book has the same amazing cast of characters. I’m thinking of the humans, not the dinosaurs: Young fossil hunter Mary Anning; feuding paleontologists Marsh and Cope, and the larger-than-life Baron Nopsca. Who knew a paleontologist was the first person to hijack an airplane?
Joe Flood’s dinosaur illustrations are perfect for the story. His art is detailed, energetic and clearly well-researched.
Near the close of Dinosaurs is a page that channels Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur. Reed and Flood, author and illustrator, are pictured with a Brontosaurus. Earlier in the book they had reported the brontosaurus was not a separate dinosaur. But in 2015, just as their book neared its deadline, the scientific community reinstated the creature.
Both Coral Reefs and Dinosaurs have forwards written by Phd’s. No doubt the editors want to assure parents and educators these books are accurate. From a design standpoint, I would have preferred if these text essays came as an afterword. That said, I love the series so far. These two wonderful books should compel more youngsters to maintain their natural curiosity about the world around us.
Kevin McCloskey recently asked me whether the handful of illustrators he had met who also play roller derby might be indicative of a larger trend – a connection between this growing sport and the world of illustration and comics – or if he was imagining that trend. I don’t think it’s imaginary at all: illustrators and comics artists have always ‘drawn from’ (haha) their own lives, so as roller derby becomes a huge part of so many lives worldwide, it’s going to burst out into our art and our stories. Perhaps the most exciting ‘roller derby illustrator’ at the moment is Victoria Jamieson.
After keeping a comics blog of her derby experiences, Jamieson – who skates under the derby name Winnie the Pow – recently created a graphic novel about a junior derby skater: ROLLER GIRL! There is an excellent free downloadable ebook about the making of Roller Girl on her site. Her work is lovely – it’s very human and warm, and escapes the simplistic ‘sexy amazon’ vibe that sometimes dominates art about derby girls by outsiders and fans. Not that there is anything wrong with being a sexy amazon (or feeling like one) but I think that real stories and personalities are far more interesting!
Jamieson is by no means the only derby player bringing the sport into her creative work, though. Stephanie Yue has released a hilarious autobiographical mini-comic featuring roller derby stories: The Chronicles of Arnica.
And Monica Gallagher’s ‘Bonnie n Collide: Nine to Five’, is ongoing strip webcomic, also collected in print form, about a derby girl working a desk job. It’s a funny, goofy and larger-than-life play on the idea of a double life (also featuring werewolves and in-office booty blocking) – but there are some lovely and very true to life interactions with Bonnie’s team and league, threaded through amongst the wacky hijinks.
Some other semi-autobiographical derby artists I’ve been following are E*Phi, and Marissa Luna and Melissa Mariko Kieselburg, who collaborate on a roller derby yuri (“girls love”) manga comic, Collision Course.
Here is a great illustrated article about roller derby culture. And acclaimed autobiographical cartoonist Lucy Knisley, while not a derby skater herself, perfectly captures the feeling of giddy fandom that characterizes many women’s first taste of the sport with her comic, Starstruck.
With all this inspiration, my buddy in roller derby AND comics, George Rex, and I have been plotting and planning to one day put together a roller derby comics anthology ‘by and for the skaters’. There have already been compilations on the theme, but they weren’t drawn by derby players themselves – and to our minds, weren’t as interesting or as true to life as the stories and art being created by real skaters (and officials, and supporters) inside the roller derby community. I’ve made a lot of roller derby drawings and little comics ‘moments’ that I’m working up into proper narratives – like this set of sketches (some of which appeared in the previous illustrationclass blog post) – drawn back when I was first getting into the sport.
We have tentatively named our derby comics project and tumblr: Wrist Stink Ink! If you’re asking why, you probably don’t play roller derby – or date anybody who does.
Derby skaters wear a lot of protective gear, and we sweat a lot, and that leads to a certain stinkiness! You can lessen it by airing out and washing your gear, and as the game grows, so too does the cottage industry of products professing to remove smells, but it’s always going to be a feature of the sport, to some extent. For some reason, wrist guards are the worst culprits! It’s something we all share, and having a bunch of women with whom you’re comfortable being sweaty and stinky is actually pretty relaxing and funny – so there’s a certain feminist affection in the name, and a commitment to making art and comics about the true experience of roller derby rather than the hyped fantasy. Talking about wrist stink may not be for everybody, but then neither is roller derby, and that’s okay!
So, yes – I am very passionate about this ‘trend’ – thanks for giving me the opportunity to share it with you! There’s a whole lot of awesomeness going on at the intersection of art and roller derby, so get out there and support your local cartoonists …. AND derby girls! – Robin Tatlow-Lord Bobby Dazzler of the Bay Area Derby Girls, 2015. (ROBINTATLOWLORD.COM)
Editor’s Note: Thanks a million to Robin for a splendid intro to the intersection of roller derby and comics. Get in touch with her if you are a roller derby artist and want to contribute to the anthology. Thanks also to Bryan Farley Photography for the portrait of Robin above.
Women’s roller derby was a national sensation in the 1950’s. Today roller derby is again a sporting and pop culture phenomenon. I met the Australian illustrator and roller derby athlete Robin Tatlow-Lord in San Francisco last week. Robin learned to skate in South Australia, with Adelaide Roller Derby and currently skates with the Bay Area Derby Girls. She taught me a bit about modern roller derby. Must admit, I had some misconceptions. For example, I called the athletes racers. Robin notes, “The sport is also not really a race, and is more akin to football, even though it’s on a looped track. Roller derby skaters call themselves and each other players, not racers.”
Robin writes, “The kind of roller derby that has become really popular now is NOT a paid professional sport. It is a community-driven, unpaid ‘amateur’ sport (though played to an extremely high level of athleticism and competitiveness) and this has been a huge part of its popularity, because women can start up their own leagues and have full control over everything they do – from what they wear to which nights they train, etc. It’s also a real sport now – unlike 1950s and 60s roller derby, it’s not ‘staged’ or manipulated as an entertainment event. There are both flat-track and banked track incarnations of modern women’s roller derby – I play flat-track.”
I wondered is there some strange new intersection between roller derby and illustration? I wrote about Kutztown grad and illustrator Kate Santee who plays for the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls. Jessica Abel’s epic Trish Trash Roller Girl from Mars has just been released in France. Her fans, myself included, are clamoring for the English edition.
I asked Robin, A.K.A. ‘Bobby Dazzler’ a few questions. First, is roller derby big in Australia?
Robin: “Yes, there is definitely roller derby in Australia. That’s where I started, and played for 2 years. In fact, an Australian team,Victorian Roller Derby League, recently beat many of the top USA teams, and are now ranked fourth in the world.”
‘Bonnie Adventuress’ (above) is a portrait of her pal, skater Bonnie ‘Bone Shaker’ Dowling, painted on recycled paper. Robin’s colorful Fresh Meat series is drawn entirely with brush pens. According to Robin’s website, the line art illustration below is from a few years back when lacy bras and fishnet stockings were more common.
Question: There seems to be a new wave of comics and illustration celebrating roller derby. I am imagining this trend?
Robin: “I don’t think it’s an imagined trend – in fact, a friend and I have been throwing around the idea of putting together a roller derby comics anthology for some time now. There have already been comics compilations on the theme, but to our minds these weren’t as interesting as the comics and illustrations actually being created by real skaters and other people involved in the roller derby community.”
Robin wrote a guest post about the current crop of roller derby players who are also comic artists. Seems like the stars are aligned for that skater/creator comics anthology she mentioned. If your artwork fits that double bill, get in touch via her website. Meanwhile, do check out Robin’s website to see the full range of her talent.
I’ve been to Seoul and Pusan in South Korea, but everything I know about Pyongyang I learned from a comic book. Guy Delisle drew a marvelous book, Pyongyang, a graphic memoir of working there in 2001.
Few Americans ever visit Pyongyang. Delisle is Canadian from Quebec, He was hired by a French studio to direct animations being drawn in North Korea. Odd, how the global race to the bottom in wages means children’s cartoons are made in the least happy country on earth.
Pyongyang was a critical success. The Globe & Mail (U.K )said: “smart, sharply observed and funny, without downplaying the untold horrors (death camps, starvation) that lurk around every corner.” Canada’s National Post wrote: “Tinged with black humour, Pyongyang offers a perspective no straight-up print journalism could.”
The book was translated into a dozen languages and optioned for film. Until last week it was going to be a movie starring Steve Carell. I expect it would have been a far more interesting film than The Interview. On December 19, Guy Delisle announced on his blog that he learned Pyongyang, the film, was canceled, collateral damage to the SONY fiasco. Delisle wrote, “What saddens me the most are the reasons that lead to this. One would have imagined that a huge corporation would not bend so easily under the threats of a group of hackers from North Korea. Apparently they hit a sensitive nerve.” Delisle’s full statement in English and French can be found here.
Speaking of film, part of Pyongyang deals with the movies. Delisle learns that Kim Jong-Il, (father to today’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un) loved the movies. Believe it or not, Kim Jong-Il’s secret police kidnapped South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok and forced him to make films in Pyongyang.
Get Pyongyang. Buy it, or ask for it at your library. It is a thoughtful book about an unthinkable place. You can read a free excerpt of Pyongyang at the website of Delisle’s Canadian Publisher, Drawn and Quarterly.