Zines by Kutztown students will form the beginning of a new Zine Collection at Kutztown University’s Rohrbach Library. Other academic institutions have famous Zine Libraries including Barnard College and Hampshire College. Kutztown is starting small.
A zine, rhymes with seen, is a small book or pamphlet. Merriam Webster defines a zine as “often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter, such as a feminist zine.” The works above by Kate Chambers and Deanna Black offer insights on body image and are great examples.
Jesse Warner, student and co-founder of Brain Bug, proposed the idea to librarian Bruce Jensen. Bruce responded with enthusiasm telling Jesse,” Your idea of a zine library in Rohrbach is brilliant! KU’s a perfect place for one, with so many knowledgeable zine-loving faculty and supertalented zinemakers hereabouts.”
Zines are harder to catalog than the typical book. Some have odd dimensions and many have no pages numbers. The Rohrbach librarians will have there work cut out for them. Hopefully by the fall, KU zinesters will find their work in the library.
If you are a student or faculty and have an idea for a zine, you need not be in a special class. Just do it! The library’s new ‘maker space’, now called STEAMworks has printers and the rare extra-long staplers needed for binding a simple zine. STEAMworks is located in room RL 18. Maybe we can have a zine workshop in the fall.
Zines do not have to be serious. Spoiler Alert: Next image is the final death scene from a very funny zine, SnailMan by Kate Desiderio!
As my zinester son, Daniel McCloskey always says, ” Zines are a great calling card for an artist. Zines have a life of their own.” Very often the original reader will think of a friend who likes a particular sort of story and pass it on. And so on.
At least one former KU student has become something of a zine star. Alisa Harris studied here before transferring to SVA in NYC to major in traditional animation. Her Urban Nomad is a step up from a zine, but we will have issue #1 from 2008 at Rohrbach. It tells of her journey from Pennsylvania to New York. Urban Nomad is a simple autobiographical tale that might inspire other young artists to head to the big city. It is available at select bookstores like Bluestocking in NYC. Alisa’s website has more info about the project.
Are you a Kutztown grad who made a zine? If you would like to donate a copy to be lovingly housed in the new zine library, get in touch with Bruce Jensen at Rohrbach Library.
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.
More talented Kutztown students are heading to the 2015 MoCCA Arts Fest in NYC with their zines or mini-comics, April 11-12.
Christina Davies is not only a design/illustration student, she is a student of the universe and avid space enthusiast. Her zine, titled “hello” celebrates manmade spacecraft and satellites, and how humanity’s will to learn and explore the universe will carry on through time. Printed in spacey blue, $3. More of Christina’s work can be found here and here. She will also be featured in the next Illozine, issue 12.
DT, aka The Disco Turtle by Brynne Camburn, $5.00. DT is a cowardly turtle who has a passion for deep house music and his own discos held within. After a turtle catastrophe, DT is forced to come out of his shell. This comic comes with an extra bonus: a custom music track on CD. The track is mixed by DJ newpyhundo, aka Tedd Wampole of NEPA, aka NorthEast PA.
The Moon and The Wolf Girl by Kristen Tully is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood where a girl and a wolf become friends. There is a tragedy, and the girl must do everything in her power to avenge her friend. Includes stickers! $3
Also debuting at MoCCA will be We Dig Worms! by me…
I will be at MoCCA’s Kutztown U table or at the table of Toon Books. MoCCA has been good to me. Last year at MoCCA I met with Françoise Mouly, publisher of Toon Books to finalize this book deal. As the art editor of the New Yorker magazine Françoise Mouly has the world’s best illustrators on speed dial. I am very fortunate that she chose to publish my We Dig Worms! She, along with her deputy art director Sasha Steinberg took my worms painted on paper bags, and made a beautiful book. The reviews have been good.
Toon Books is sending me on a multi-state worm tour with a bucket of racing nightcrawlers. After NYC, we visit Alexandria, Va, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. I am also doing talks closer to home in Kutztown and Reading. Hope to see you. We Dig Worms! tour info here. Available wherever books are sold including Barnes and Noble, the Kutztown University Bookstore and Firefly Bookstore.
Liv Carberry created Imago. Here is her description: A 1940’s pilot struggles to stay alive after his airplane crashes. Price: $3
More of Liv’s work can be seen here. Imago is just one of twenty zines, small comic books, from my Illustration 2 class that will debut at MoCCA Arts Festival in NYC, April 11 and 12. MoCCA, the annual comics festival hosted by NY’s Society of Illustrators will be held in Chelsea this year. More info here.
Students had this entire semester, 11 weeks, to work on the zine project. We meet 6 hours a week, so at the very least, they get a sense of what they can do in 66 hours.
Not of This World: Two True Stories of Alien Encounters by Adam Leisenring
Adam Leisenring has acquired 2 top-secret government files from the Office of Extraterrestrial Research, circa 1955. He is now making this information available by publishing it in mini-comic form. The book will be $4 and will come in its own top-secret file folder. More of his work here. Adam, by the way, will be featured in the next issue of Illozine, a competitive quarterly devoted to contemporary illustration.
The Folly by Madison Staufferis priced at $2. The story in brief: Two thieves find more than they bargained for when they break into the house of a woman rumored to be a witch. Madison’s artwork is leaning toward the supernatural lately. She is also doing the cover art for the next issue of The Journal of Dracula Studies. More of her work can be seen here.
Jordan Moser has been in a number of bands. His book, HEAVY, features a small-time metal band trying to graduate from playing small potatoes venues to getting a shot at the big leagues, but the odds are stacked against them when just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Price $5.
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. We will share more student images soon. MoCCA’s general admission is just $5 a day, a bargain for an art fest. Look for Kutztown at Table 239 in the Red Zone.
I went to NYC for the 92nd meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium. I’ve missed 90 meetings, but they are a welcoming bunch. The Symposium pops up someplace different each meeting, so you need to find it. The Symposium is free, info here. This is not Comi-Con. The emphasis is on D.I.Y., independent and innovative comics.
Tom Hart and Leela Corman, husband and wife artists and educators presented. There was a crowd of about 40. Tom and Leela arrived a bit late navigating their way into the SVA conference room with their baby Molly in a stroller. Tom shared a Powerpoint about the Sequential Artists Workshop, SAW, the one-room schoolhouse for comics they founded in Florida in 2011. As Tom’s eyes darted across the audience he gave shout-outs to old NYC friends. He taught cartooning for 10 years at SVA.
VISIT GAINESVILLE: More Lizards than Criminals! Tom spoke of their move to Florida. A New Yorker in the audience must have flinched. “It’s Gainesville!” said Tom. “It’s not what you think of when you think ‘Florida.’ We have WAY more lizards than criminals.” He’s working on a graphic memoir dealing, in part, with their exodus from New York. I read somewhere Tom just got tired of being a starving artist in New York. I recall one telling detail. He wore his useless wristwatch for months because he couldn’t afford a new battery.
SAW’s one room schoolhouse is in what looks like a mini-mall. Tom touted his Gainesville neighborhood, pointing out SAW’s proximity to the South’s oldest feminist/LGBTQ bookstore and the South’s oldest Infoshop. He explained the impetus for creating SAW, an affordable stand-alone academy for comics. “I had this vision of an intense, serious place, – The Paper Chase for cartooning.” (The Paper Chase was a ’70’s T.V. show about Harvard Law School with a hero named Hart, oddly enough.) Tom’s recollections of his time studying cartooning at SVA were not pretty. Nobody finished anything. -“It was terrible. They were all listening to The Cure and doing drugs,” he recalled. “and my mother had to take out a loan.”
“It’s not right. There are art schools charging $35,000 a year, and there are schools charging less, like $12,000. Even that’s too much.” he said. “SAW’s flagship program, a 1-year full-time comics boot camp costs $3,500 for the year.” SAW’s program includes master classes in life drawing, comics/art history “that begins way before Hogarth” lo-fi technique classes, and, naturally, critiques. They don’t have a lot of computers or software, but they do have a risograph printer. SAW is not accredited, but teaches the same stuff as accredited schools and the results are quite impressive. I wrote about SAW before and interviewed student Adrian Pijoan here.
Leela took to the podium. Besides teaching at SAW, she’s a zinester, illustrator, and belly dance instructor. A Powerpoint malfunction prevented her from showing much of her award-winning graphic novel Unterzakhn. Tom still asked her the question that irks her most, “Is Unterzakhn autobiographical?” She answered with mock annoyance,”It’s about twins! It takes place in a brothel! in 1910! The answer is, No!”
She shared work done for the Symbolia, the app ‘where comics meets journalism.’ I took some solace from her offhand remark, “I have to learn to draw again for every book.” The progressive Jewish mag Tablet published some of her most heartfelt work, – her graphic meditation on her Holocaust survivor grandfather and her own pain of losing a daughter. Their daughter Rosalie died near the age of two in 2011. “Since my first child died, I’ve tried to understand how my grandfather handled losing his entire family, and how he kept going.” As Leela noted, no one can understand this sort of grief, if they have not experienced it. Even then, it is beyond understanding. The full strip is here.
Secret Project GNAT
Tom returned to the podium to share a rather incredible comic he is editing for DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are the folks who invented the Internet and drones. Really! Everyone is getting into comics. The GNAT project (Graphic Novel Art Therapy) is meant to help vets deal with PTSD. A declassified explanation of the overall project can be found here. Tom shared pages from a graphic retelling of the Odyssey for vets. He pointed out details including extraordinary inking by Justine Anderson, above. That final panel is drawn with a toothpick.
Tom looped back to his own memoir project. He posts his Rosalie Lightning work-in-progress online. He, too, spoke of his massive grief when baby Rosalie died. He recalled reading classic 1920’s Gasoline Alley strips by Frank King. When got to a panel where Walt panics about losing his baby Skeezix, he couldn’t bear to continue reading.
Maybe it was a catch in his voice, or a dip in Tom’s positive psychic energy, but as he talked about “losing our baby” something changed. It seemed even Molly, eleven months old, sensed it. She swung her wee body away from her mother’s breast toward her father. Leela held on as long as she could, but Molly went willfully horizontal, arms outstretched toward Tom.
Leela carried Molly across the room carefully shielding the girl’s eyes from the glare of the projector. Tom cradled Molly in his left arm and, as best he could, used his right hand to advance the slides. At one point he tried to pass Molly back to Leela. Molly refused to go that go far.
Nick Bertozzi seated near the podium managed to bounce Molly on his knee as Tom wrapped up his commentary. Tom apologized if he’d gone on too long. The room filled with applause. Molly’s eyes lit up as if the clapping was for her. I suppose some of it was. Grateful applause for the whole family: Tom and Leela and Rosalie and Molly.
There was time for a few questions, and someone asked how to help SAW. Tom was clearly relieved by the softball question. He’d totally forgotten to mention that key point. SAW depends on donations to keep tuition low. SAW will announce a new Indi-GOGO fundraiser in December. To help out visit the SAW site and sign up for the newsletter. They also have low-residency weeks if you haven’t got a year off.
Note: The 93rdNY Comics & Picture-story Symposium is Mon, Aug. 4, 2014, 7 pm, Dixon Place on Chrystie St. Free and open to the public. Presenters: Sophia Wiedeman & Anna Raff. Details here.
COME SEE BOX BROWN! “How to Make Comics Every Day and Still Be Alive” -Box Brown, Sept 17th Sharadin Arts Bldg. Kutztown U, Rm 120, 7pm. Free! This is the same talk he is giving at the Library of Congress earlier in the week.
K.Mc: Is there a big comics scene in Philadelphia?
Box: Yeah, pretty big. There is the Philly Comix Jam, a monthly meeting of artists at a bar. Anywhere from 10 to 40 artists show up. It’s been going on for about 5 years now. There’s about 5 or 6 comic shops in the area and a few small conventions. I hear about new artists all the time via internet and stuff. too. Of course, Charles Burns also lives in Philly but he’s not really part of the comics “scene.”
K.Mc: Did you study illustration, take a course in cartooning?
Box: I didn’t r-e-a-a-a-l-ly study art formally, at all. I just started drawing comics one day in my 20’s and slowly got more and more interested until finally one day I decided to pursue it in earnest. I was really inspired by James Kochalka to do a diary comic strip in 2005 and since then I’ve drawn at least one comic page a day. I did take Tom Hart’s continuing ed. comics class at SVA twice in a row.
K.Mc: You created Retrofit Comics. Promoting and working with other artists must take time away from your personal work, but did it pay off for your personal career?
Box: Well, I think ultimately it’s raised my profile. I made money the first year, lost money in year two, and then found a business partner who knows what he’s actually doing. So, at this point I’m only editing really, whereas before I was doing every thing including shipping. I think working with other artists this closely has been really beneficial to my own work.
K.Mc: Willing to share something about the economics of your comics income?
Box:It’s hard to say where money comes from. Ha-Ha! Lately, I’ve been doing freelance poster design and other illustration jobs as they come. I have hopes that Retrofit will again turn a profit (at least enough so I can get paid again). Selling my personal zines and stuff helps too.
K.Mc: How much does the sale of original art help?
Box:Over the past year original art sales have become a decent amount income, believe it or not. It’s not constant, but once in a while it’s a great boost.
K.Mc: How did it come about that Andre the Giant is published by a major publisher?
Box: At one point I had a literary agent who was trying to sell my “Everything Dies” project as a graphic novel. Through that process I got to meet my editor at First Second. So, when I started working on Andre and conceived of it as a long book I sent Calista (my editor) an email submission (along with other publishers) and :01 liked it. (Note :01 stands for First Second Books .) K.Mc: Can I take images from your site, like your round self-portrait and one of your original pages for Andre?
Box:Yeah, no prob.
K.Mc: Got some advice for students who want to break into to indie comics?
BOX: Work. Work. Work. Self-publish! Self-publish the hell out of everything you can. Online, zines, go to conventions interact with other artists, get on twitter and follow your favorite artists and interact with the community. Read comics a lot, immerse yourself in the culture. If after a decade you feel it wasn’t a worthwhile pursuit you can give up.
Beginning in May, Box Brown will be on his Andre the Giant tour. He will visit Kutztown University on Sept 17. He will be speaking in Sharadin 120 at 7pm. Free and Open to the Public.
I was reading multiple great books: a novel set in Mexico; a literary biography; a history of the U.S invasion of Iraq. Then I opened a padded envelope to find a review copy of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Those other books got thrown out of the ring.
Looking at the title and cover art, I expected a quick, fluffy read. This book is much more than that. Andre the Giant is a serious biography that reads like a graphic novel. It is a series of fantastic vignettes from the life of Andre Roussimoff (1946-1993.) Andre’s eventful life is artfully woven from the whole range of human experience, at times funny, poignant, ridiculous, noble, generous, tragic. This gentle giant was, by and large, a wonderful human being, but he also could be a big jerk, especially when he got drunk. Box Brown has done a brilliant job of portraying Andre’s multidimensional life.
Box Brown says in the book’s frank and philosophical introduction, “The idea of truth in professional wrestling is certainly elastic.” He also explains that as an artist he had to improvise dialog and envision scenes he never witnessed to tell the this “true” story.
I was only dimly aware of Box Brown’s work. I knew he was a Philadelphia-based zinester who had some success using Kickstarter to produce Retrofit Comics. His deceptively simple illustration style is perfect here. His line drawings of Andre are spare, with just enough tonality to impart a sense of mass. He artfully designs the pages so that often his drawings of Andre fill individual panels to capacity.
There is a lot aspiring cartoonists can learn from a careful observation of Brown’s style. Consider the two panels above where the narrator’s voice overlays the ring announcer’s speech balloons. I first noticed this multi-track cinematic effect in Daniel Clowes’ work. You don’t see this in the works of a novice.
Brown ends the book with a complete bibliography. He clearly enjoyed his research, reading obscure wrestling magazines and freeze-framing Wrestlemania DVD’s. For me the story rings true. I never saw Andre wrestle, but I did see Gorrilla Monsoon wrestle Bruno Sanmartino in Asbury Park. And I just watched a midnight showing of The Princess Bride at Kutztown’s Strand Theatre. Sure, he was typecast, but Andre did great as the giant, Fezzig. According to Brown’s book, making The Princess Bride was one of the happiest time in Andre’s life. It shows.
I have been raving about this book since the moment I finished it. My daughter is pleading with me, “Dad, Can you please stop talking about Andre the Giant?” I guess I can’t.
Next post we will have a brief interview with Box Brown. Hope to get him to visit Kutztown next fall. Andre the Giant will be published in May by First Second Books. Ask your local indy bookstore to order you a copy.
UPDATE: Box Brown will share his story of Andre the Giant at Kutztown U, Weds. Sept 17 – 7pm, Sharadin Arts Building Rm 120. Free & Open to the public. He will bring books to sell and sign.