Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sweet! Celebrate! (Get To Work!)

I don't think I could call myself a comics blogger without mentioning the San Diego Comic-Con that happened over the weekend.  Though I hear stories that it's become a playground for video game releases and blockbuster movie swag, it is still the spot where they hand out the coveted Eisner Awards.

This book won the 2013 Eisner for "Best Reality-Based Comic."
If you don't own it already, you should!
The Eisners!  They are the Oscars of the comics creating world.  And this is the second year I've been able to bask in hometown pride.  Last year, Seattle cartoonists David Lasky and Frank Young brought home the Eisner for "Best Reality-Based Comic" for their graphic novel The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song.   I highly recommend it, and you can read more about it at Carter Family Comics:  Don't Forget This Blog!  

THIS year,  Fantagraphic swept the Eisners!

Artists and stories published by the Seattle-based comics company took home three top awards.  The Fantagraphics wins are particularly poignant not only because of the passing of Fantagraphics publisher, Kim Thompson, this year but also because many believe recognition of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez - the creators of Love and Rockets - is long overdue.

I copped this image of Gilbert and
Jaime Hernandez from the
Fantagraphics blog, here!
Fantagraphics has an excellent write up about it on their own blog, here.

I am personally very excited that Jaime Hernandez was awarded "Best Artist of the Year."  He created the character Maggie for the series "Music for Mechanics."  She was a teenage female latino punk mechanic, and I related to her a great deal as a teenage female mixed-Native goth arc welder. 

If the character correlations weren't strong enough, I'll let you in on a secret.  I currently go by my middle name, Noel, but my first name is actually Margaret.  No really, Maggie and I share the same first name.  So, there you go.  I often felt like Jaime was somehow eerily ghosting my life is some of Maggie's stories.

All "WOW-that-character-is-just-like-me!" stories aside, though, Jaime's artwork is incredibly well-executed.  It's rare to find that great of a story-teller and artist in the same human being.

I'm celebrating my own small win, this weekend.  No Eisners, but my story Shipyard Espionage has been accepted for publication by the Indie Ladies Comic Anthology for 2014.  It rounds out this year's projects nicely and will give me another publication I can offer at my table at Short Run in November. 

(Public Service Announcement:  BOTH Short Run applications and Indie Ladies Comic submissions close on July 31st.  If you read this on the Tuesday I publish it, get thee to their application sites!)

A portrait of my former self drawn into Shipyard Espionage (right)  as
Maggie the Mechanic from Love and Rockets (left, by Jaime Hernandez).
I put a lot into the story Shipyard Espionage.  It's a 7-page autobiographical story about working in a large shipyard in Bellingham.  It's a story about work and art.  I'm hoping it will serve as a calling card for what I want to do with my graphic novel.  And because it's about my days as a welder, I drew an homage to Maggie the Mechanic on the 2nd page.  To be truthful, I feel like I'm going to have to give Jaime Hernandez a visual nod at some point, so why not now, early on in my comics making life?

Now that Shipyard Espionage is done, I'm busy creating a short story on the history of the Chicago Picasso, a 50-Foot sculpture that Picasso donated to the City of Chicago when they built Daley Plaza in the 1960s.  I'll be writing about next week.  Not only is it an interesting story, but I'm telling it for an interesting project.

So back to it!

C-log posts on comics, publication and community every Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shout Out for Short Run! (Artists Apply Now!!)

Photo Credit:  Alex Stonehill
Short Run.  It’s for everyone.  But I want to open by saying this:

If you create comics/zine/craftsy self-published items AND you live anywhere near Seattle OR have the means to travel to Seattle, then:

Though the main event happens on November 15th, 2014, artist applications are due in two weeks.  And you’ll want to apply, because:

Short run is an amazing dream scape where light streams through the high windows of historic Washington Hall to illuminate the bazilliondy people who cram every aisle SPECIFICALLY TO BUY YOUR PRODUCT.  Short Run feels like it has as much traffic as all of ETSY, only in one action-packed day, and the customers are there in the flesh, with clutch purses and/or hipster facial hair and a budget set aside to purchase indie comics!

The view from my table at Short Run 2014.
I do not know the people holding my comics.
Audience development in action!
I am not exaggerating.  At last year’s Short Run, I sold over 90 copies of Gone Girl Comics #1, and this was after I had done a book release party earlier.  This means that almost all of my sales were to people I had never even met before.

Part of Short Run’s draw for honest-to-god comics buying audiences is that the festival’s organizers are so good to the artists.  Short Run is able to attract a large pool of diverse, talented and enthusiastic creators.  There’s just a lot of good products, a lot of good people and an increasing amount of good activities.  (The killer combination of reasonable tabling fees coupled with the organizer’s ability to garner good press doesn’t hurt.  Artists, are you reaching to click the “Apply” link yet?)

Short Run has a great website where you can learn everything you need to know about the festival.  (Check check.)  But I asked one of the organizers, Kelly Froh, to share some information about what’s new for Short Run 2014.  
The women who make Short Run happen.
 (Left to right) Janice Headley, Eroyn Franklin and Kelly Froh
Photo Credit:  Alex Stonehill

Attendees and participants can look forward to:
  • A featured appearance by John Porcellino, of King Cat Comics fame,
  • A showing of "Root Hog or Die", a documentary about John Porcellino by Dan Stafford,
  • International guests artists. Short Run is working with home countries and granting organizations to bring artists from abroad, and
  • Site-specific arts performances during the festival.

Satellite events will include:
  • A night of International Comics at the Seattle Public Library,
  • An art show at Joe Bar,
  • A pre-festival party, art show, and readings at Fantagraphics Bookstore &Gallery, and
  • A mural that will be made that week and available for viewing all throughout the process.

Short Run 2014 Poster
by guest artist John Porcellino
I have several regrets about my participation in Short Run last year, which include not having a more diverse product line (I only had two mini comics to choose from), not baking anything for the fundraising bake sale (I am hoping they feature baked goods again!) and not planning breaks to see other exhibitors and events that would take me away from my table.  There were things I didn’t see and cartoonist I love that I didn’t go meet.

So, if you exhibit, arrange breaks to check out other artists and the things on the program you absolutely need to see.  Anyone else, I envy you.  You get to enjoy Short Run at your leisure, (FREE OF CHARGE, by the way, for attendees) experience some great time/site specific art and walk home with an armload of excellent comics and zines!

The Short Run website will feature updates as the 2014 festival develops.  ALSO look for Short Run sponsored events throughout the year, including the ladies-only Making Night hosted at Hollow Earth Radio throughout the next few months.

C-log posts on comics, publication and community every Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Comics and Medicine

Today's C-log is a guest Blog by Meredith Li-Vollmer.  Meredith is a risk communication specialist for Public Health - Seattle & King County here in Washington State who spearheaded the project Comics 4 Health Coverage.  I did a 4-panel comic for the project because so very many fine cartoonists were discussing their involvement in Comics 4 Health Coverage that I had to learn more about it for myself. 

Here is Meredith to tell you about her project and the 

Comics and Medicine community: 


“You mean there are others like you?”
When I told my public health colleagues that I was going to a conference called Comics & Medicine, this was the bemused response I got. And truthfully, as I sat surrounded by 285 people from 12 countries in a lecture hall at Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, I was giddy and astounded by how many share my quirky interest.

David Lasky and Meredith Li-Vollmer hawking their
pandemic flu comic book at Comics & Medicine marketplace.
Our eclectic crowd included cartoonists, clinicians, linguists, bioethicists, medical illustrators, and literary scholars, gathered to share our work and generate new directions for comics. I’ve been collaborating with cartoonist David Lasky on educational comics about pandemic influenza and other dire public health topics since 2007, but I had no idea how many other ways people were using comics in medicine and health.
The conference featured a staggering 70+ talks demonstrating the power of graphic narrative to help people intimately grapple with the complexity of health and medical issues. For instance, fellow Seattleite Ellen Forney gave an amazing reading/lecture/performance piece that explored her diagnosis of bipolar disorder as detailed in her graphic memoir, Marbles. In Marbles, Forney masterfully used the visual vocabulary of comics to convey the intensity of her emotional states and to explain how she reconciled her diagnosis with her identity as an artist.
Artwork by Lydia Gregg, Chair and Lead
Organizer for Comics & Medicine.  Lydia
is an Instructor and Certified Medical
Illustrator at Johns Hopkins University School
of Medicine.
It’s that ability to flesh out the inner life of a character and make visual the sensations experienced that makes comics so well suited for stories about physical and mental health. And creating comics also offers possibilities of transformation for those who create them. In Vermont, James Sturm, co-founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies, is helping veterans with PTSD and substance abuse issues use comics as a way of communicating—and processing—what they went through. In the impoverished Dharavi neighborhood of Mumbai, Benita Fernando is teaching locals to make comics as a means of expressing their concerns about sanitation issues and talking about mental health.
Several physicians gave talks about the use of comics to reflect upon their clinical and medical school experiences, a practice that is gaining traction in a few medical education programs. The Annals of Internal Medicine even has a call out for comics after an enthusiastic response from their readership when they published Missed It, a comic by Dr. Michael Green that tells about a missed diagnosis he made as an intern.
Importantly, graphic memoirs are providing a platform for patients to tell their own stories, shifting the perspective of illness narratives from the doctor-driven case studies. David Brenner and the cartoonist Mindy Indy presented on No Tears: Life with FD. This weekly webcomic about living with familial dysautonomia (FD), a rare, life-threatening disease, has created a community of rare disease patients who can relate to the humanizing depictions of daily struggles and moments of levity.
I gave a presentation on Comics 4 Health Coverage, a project I spearheaded with a small group of comics scholars and cartoonists in Seattle to tell personal stories about health insurance. Why health insurance? After reading several graphic memoirs related to illness, we were struck by the centrality of health insurance to these memoirs: for example, would Ken Dahl, author of Monster, have suffered such self-loathing and isolation if he had been able to afford the test for herpes sooner? What if Marisa Acocella Marchetta, the uninsured protagonist of Cancer Vixen, had not had a wealthy boyfriend who could cover the costs of her chemo treatment?
Noel Franklin's contribution to
Comics 4 Health Coverage
We were also highly aware of the low levels of insurance among artists and writers, so when enrollment opened for Obamacare, we issued a call for comics on why health insurance matters. We hoped that personal stories told through comics would spark thoughts or discussion, and perhaps motivate others to explore their coverage options. The idea had resonance, as seen in the range of stories we received from both seasoned and first-time cartoonists about what it means to have—or not have—health insurance, candidly told in four panels. And the presentation on the project certainly drew interest at Comics & Medicine, most notably from attendees from England and Brazil who were flabbergasted at the lack of universal coverage in this country.
In retrospect, it’s not that surprising that there were so many of us willing to travel to Baltimore to talk Comics & Medicine. Fans of the comic medium know the power of comics to transport readers into the experience of another. So it makes perfect sense that people with interests in health and medicine are increasingly using comics to tell stories about some of the most profound human experiences.

It was inspiring and liberating to be surrounded by so much creativity and passion related to my professional field. I haven’t drawn much since my teen years, but after this conference, I’ve been drawing a quick comic every day so that I can be more than just a writer of health comics. The next Comics & Medicine conference will likely be in Riverside, CA.  Care to join others like me?

Meredith Li-Vollmer

C-log posts on comics, publication and community every Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Anthology Game

Welcome to the one-month anniversary of C-Log.  (I've decided that blogs are like babies.  Cute in their infancy but probably won't make that big of an impact or pay their own rent until they are old enough to go to college.) 

NEXT WEEK I'll have a guest blog by Meredith Li-Vollmer, a risk communication specialist for Public Health - Seattle & King County who spearheaded the project Comics 4 Health Coverage.

Title page in-process for an anthology
submission due later this month.
THIS WEEK is about my experienced with seeking publication in comics anthologies.

I'm excited to report that it can be done.  Since the cold Seattle night that I decided to Google "Comics Anthology Submissions," I've had five stories selected for publication, with two more under consideration.

I feel good about the chances of the pending submissions because I researched the anthologies thoroughly and feel my art fits well with what the editors are trying to do.

Which is the sweet spot - the fit.

There are not a lot of open calls for comic book anthologies, period.  Of those, a high percentage of them are for genre fiction, mainstream horror and/or manga themed publications.  That's great, if that's the kind of work you're making, but my stuff is more in the autobiographical vein.

So, I did A LOT OF RESEARCH.  And this is what I've found:
  • Again, there's not a ton of open calls for submission out there.
  • Some of the best ones I found were buried deep in the editor's blog (so keep digging!)
  • Many calls for submission are out-of-date.  I have an embarrassing story about making a comic for an anthology that was already published.  The story has a happy ending, because the comic is being printed in another journal, but you can bet I triple-check dates, now.
  • There are at least two lists of open calls that seem to be current and relatively accurate.  They are kept by Cloudscape Comics out of BC and Indie Ladies Comics.  

My super-secret weapon for taking over comics by 2015.
After a few months of submitting to anthologies, I began keeping a spreadsheet.

This is a practice I started after missing the call for inclusion in Dirty Diamonds #5, which I really REALLY wanted to be in, but am not, because there was just so much time left until the deadline.  And then I forgot about it.  And then the deadline passed.

There is actually a second page to the spreadsheet, which lists stories after they get published, so that I have a record of my publication history.  Why so organized, you ask?  Because in my past life, as a poet, I got grants, publication, residencies and the like, but never did anything with all that good stuff.  My peers were getting book deals and performance tours and I was working as an arts administrator and not making a case for myself as an artist.  I feel that I squandered a lot of creative capital. 

I don't know how many shots you get at doing what you love, but I'm not going to waste it this time around.  Both the research and the spreadsheets have been helpful in getting my stories out there and have even led to inclusion in invitation-only anthologies.

I'll keep posting about this topic as I learn more and come across new developments.  If you are aware of any other resources that would be useful in the quest for publication, and care to share them, feel free to email me or post in the comments below. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Blood Root: Free Download of Intelligent New Horror Comic

This week, an independent press out of Los Angeles introduced an awesome new contribution to field of contemporary horror comics.  It's called Blood Root, and it's being produced by Shing Yin Khor of Sawdust Press.

Shing is an artist in her own right, creating comics such as Center for Otherworld Science and autobiographical short stories, as well as fine art sculptures of creatures she calls "Gravebeasts."  The Gravebeasts are alarmingly cute despite their nomenclature (You can find images of them here), which seems to be Shing's driving aesthetic.

You won't find slasher fiction or torture porn in the pages of Blood Root.  Instead, Shing has curated works that represent "a very specific type of horror . . . slow, moody and psychological" consisting of "a bunch of strange little stories with amazing art and a diverse range of characters, by a similarly diverse slate of creators."

The title itself is the popular name of the flowering plant Sanguinaria.  "I wanted to name the anthology after something both sweet and sinister, and a pretty and poisonous flower fit the bill."  The stories themselves range in subject from seemingly shape-shifting sea creatures to Haitian Vodou traditions.

From "The Family That Eats Together" by James Neish

I contacted creator James Neish regarding his heartbreaking contribution to Blood Root.  (You can visit his Facebook artist page here.)  He said he "wanted to dedicate something to Hayao Miyazaki in his year of retirement, so this short comic is inspired by his work, which has molded my approach to storytelling through the years."  James currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia but met Shing when they attended school together in the Philippines.  

I've never met Shing Yin Khor in person.  I've only corresponded with her via the internet, regarding a story I submitted for consideration in Blood Root.  I'm already impressed, though, by her inclusion of truly diverse artists representing a variety of styles, from a variety of countries, and her professionalism in dealing with me as an artist is even greater inspiration for me to step up my game as a comics creator.

Blood Root Number One is available online as a pay-what-you-want (even free!) digital download here.  If you're like me, and enjoy holding stories in your hand in a print publication, you'll be able to purchase a beautifully printed edition for $8 here after the 4th of July.  Which reminds me of another vital bit of information:  Blood Root contributors get paid a healthy licensing fee for their stories, so know that your payment goes to supporting good artists!

I'll be writing about Blood Root again in the future, and I definitely want to further explore the idea of how the internet is creating a comics community without borders or boundaries.  So come back later and join me in exploring that topic.

Until then, go check Blood Root Number One out!

Quick Update:  I almost neglected to mention that this issue of Blood Root has a lovely, scientific illustration of the Sanguinaria plant by hometown Seattle artist Angela Boyle!