Saturday, December 31, 2011

8 Favorite Comics of 2011

Hello everybody. I usually stray away from making a "best of" list but for some reason I'm not this year. Looking through my books to compile this list I realized how disappointed I was this year. There were some big titles from some of my favorite creators this year but when I look back in all honesty I didn't really enjoy them that much. Enjoyment is my #1 concern. Some books got me angry and some books got me thinking but overall that doesn't mean that the book was a success. They will just have to stay off this list and you'll just have to guess which books those are. Some of these books that I wanted to like more were collections of comics that just worked better as single issues. Or maybe I enjoyed them less because I'd already read them and spent so much time admiring them in their pamphlet infancy. One caveat to my list is that I didn't read every book put out this year of course. Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals is one I, if I'd read it, would have added to this list. But there must be a reason why I didn't buy it. Another caveat is that some of these books that did make my list are collections from much older work that have been re-published or collected in 2011. Update: I just read John Porcellino's King Cat #72. That should have been on my list.

8. Papercutter #17. Edited and published by Greg Means of Tugboat press, this issue is probably one of my favorite issues of this anthology. Unusual for this anthology, one writer, Jason martin, provided all the stories. seven cartoonists: Jesse Reklaw, Corinne Mucha, Francois Vigneault, Calvin Wong, Sarah oleksyk, Hellen Jo, and Vanessa Davis were employed to turn those stories into comics.  Jason Martin's stories provide a nice framework for the artists in a way that allows easy comparison to Pekar's American Splendor. 

7. Blammo #7. Noah Van Sciver continues to make good comics. Each issue has several stories and I'm often pleasantly surprised by the way Noah Van Sciver ends a story. Usually, punctuated in a way that makes you feel uneasy and with more questions than answers. Looking forward to his book, The Hypo, about a young Abraham Lincoln.

6.  The Incal. Written by Alexandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Moebius, this is a collection of the classic comic that the duo created in the early to mid eighties. It took me a while to read this book I must admit. The font is very tiny and hard to read. That combined with stiff dialogue and a sprawling science fiction tale continued to make this book less enjoyable to me. It was fun to pick out ideas in this book that influenced a range of films and books but often it seemed as if Jodorowsky and Moebius was being influenced by obvious sources as well. All in all, Moebius's artwork and his colorists' coloring is the reason to pick up this book. Gorgeous to say the least.

5. Mister Wonderul. Daniel Clowes was certainly my gateway into comics as an adult. First, with the film Ghost World and then with back issues of Eightball. Mister Wonderful is a nice expanded collection of comics Clowes drew for the New York Times Magazine. I enjoyed the story and the characters much more than Clowes' other recent book, Wilson, and I'm not interested in the new slick version of The Death Ray. I already own the $7.00 over-sized pamphlet. That printing is a work of art.

4. Americus. Another book edited by Greg Means, Americus' first chapter debuted in an earlier issue of Papercutter. Written by MK Reed and illustrated by Jonathan Hill, Americus is a solid book. The storytelling is well structured and compelling enough that I read it in one morning straight through after several months of not being ready to read it. It's a very good book for a middle schooler or someone in high school.

3. Garden. Yuichi yokoyama has been a favorite of mine for some time. I like to call his work, "Future Comics." As compared to some of his previous books, Garden begins to employ dialogue as characters comment on the many amazing and absurd situations they bare witness to. At the beginning, when they are told the garden is closed, hundreds of these people sneak into this garden/theme park and pass by grass mazes, ball-waterfalls, rock cars, and many many strange physical features and odd phenomena as they try not to get caught by security personnel. I'm not interested in his newest, Color Engineering. I prefer his comics to his paintings.

2. Approximate Continuum Comics. This book collects several issues of Lewis Trondheim's autobio comic The Nimrod. Trondheim has been a huge influence on me, just as the Norwegian cartoonist Jason, for drawing animal comics. I love Trondheim's humor and what I love too about this book is Trondheim working his family, business (co-running La Association), and his comics aspirations. I don't care for Trondheim's more recent diary strips, Little Nothings, because they amount to little more than a laundry-list of superficial anecdotes. This book, however, provides a much more in-depth look at a person and I really enjoy the partying and inner-fighting at La Asso., which is now legend.

1. A Zoo In Winter. Jiro Taniguchi has made a handfull of books. Half of them I love, and half of them bore me out of my mind. Walking Man, A Distant Neighborhood vol. 1 and 2 and this is one are the ones I like. This book reads as a memoir of the young cartoonist, similar to the recently published, A Drifting Life by Tatsumi. Being a cartoonist, nothing is more thrilling to read then how great cartoonists broke into their field, especially the Japanese masters with their furious work ethic. It is thrilling to read as Taniguchi, almost unaware, falls into the position of assisting one of the manga stars during the late 1960s. I have a feeling that this book was overlooked more than a little. I loved it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Neptune Editions çà et là


Above is the French hardcover cover of Neptune. Below is the original English language version. I ended up re-drawing the cover a few days ago because it needed some specific changes. You can download a pdf preview of the French version from my publisher. Also, did you know that Neptune was listed as a notable book in this year's Best American Comics.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bozo The Teacher



This is the first of a webcomic I'm starting. It's called Bozo The Teacher. I'm sick of working on stuff and people not seeing it. I'm working on new kids book projects along with a big autobio book. This is a chance for me to experiment. So far I'm enjoying the quickness of this project.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Big Plans 5 at Buyolympia.com


Big Plans 5 is now available from Buyolympia.com. They take some pretty awesome pictures of my books, I must say.

Also, Big Plans 5 is now for sale in Portland at:

Reading Frenzy
Cosmic Monkey
Floating World
Herbivore
Bridge City Comics
Powell's (Hawthorne)
Powell's (downtown)

More coming so soon.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big Plans 5 Release Party!

Come to the Big Plans 5 Release party at Floating World Comics! Also, Big Plans 5 will be at MIX at the Sparkplug Table with Virginia Paine. It's my biggest Big Plans yet.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=171004862990214&ref=notif&notif_t=event_admin

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Super-Duper Dog Park Release Party!!!

Hi Everyone. First of all I have to say thank you to everyone who helped me promote and back my Kickstarter project. It was successful!!!!! I can't believe it... Now I'm just waiting the mandatory 14 days before Amazon allows me to access the funds, then I can print. Until then, keep in mind I'm having my new kid's book release party at Green Bean Books over on NE Alberta in Portland, Oregon. Please come.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dylan Williams


This post is long overdue, I know. But I needed time.

Dylan Williams, my friend, neighbor, and publisher, died last week. My wife got the phone call from Emily on Saturday. About five minutes later, I got a call from my friend Greg Means who was attending the Small Press Expo in Bethesda Maryland. He asked me if "it" was true. Rumors of Dylan's death started circulating the festival very quickly.

I prefer not to say that Dylan "passed away," but rather that he "died." Passed away implies an expectation of death and also the deceased having lived a long and full life. Dylan did accomplish a lot in a short while, but he had so much more to do and give. I know he had plans. Also, while Dylan did have cancer none of us expected it to take him so quickly. He beat it before.

I first met Dylan in 2006 at The Portland Zine Symposium... Or maybe it was Stumptown. My friend Jeremy Tiedeman introduced me or maybe I introduced myself. I knew who he was an I was inspired by the work he did. He had read my book and was kind to me. He gave me a stack of Reporters. I was humbled by his openness and generosity to someone whom he'd never met before. Soon after that I was invited to Comics Drawing night at Jesse Reklaw and Andrice Arp's house. I had just put out my first mini comic at this time so I had very little confidence to carry me through conversation and drawing on those nights. Everyone was so nice though.. Dylan would stroke Jesse's cat, Littles, over and over and over.

One night I received an email from Dylan writing to all of his friends saying that sometime in the future he might need something like a bone marrow transplant and that we should all get tested to figure out if we were a match. I didn't do this because I didn't really know him too well at the time. I wish I had. I may be totally wrong about the details but it was the first time I heard that he'd been sick.

I never really learned too much about his condition over the years because he didn't exactly offer the information up easily. Dylan's cancer was always with him and it was always on my mind. Dylan got healthier and healthier. He became vegan and gluten free. He'd do Tai Chi and stick fighting at a local martial arts gym. I'd very regularly see him running through my neighborhood. I'd usually speed run up to him and shout to scare him, hoping to get a laugh.

We never really had the long conversations I hear many people talk about having. Sometimes it'd tap out at 30 minutes. We didn't listen to the same music at all, and his adamant dislike for Kurosawa made it hart for us to truly bond over movies. But one thing's for certain, we both loved old Jack Nicholson movies like Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger and Bob Raphelson's Five Easy Pieces. We both liked Yasujiro Ozu. I got him to appreciate John Cassavetes. That was a triumph for me. How do you influence someone who has such clearly defined opinions and who has already seen everything and has decided not to see what they haven't.

Dylan was the first person and one of the only people to buy a piece of artwork from me. With my outright begging and help from his wife, Emily, he co-published a book of mine. Dylan was always a supporter and it felt good. I know he liked my first book. I'm not exactly sure what he thought about my kid's comics but he always made me want to share everything I did with him.

Dylan was an incredibly humble man. If I regret anything, I regret not talking to him more about his own comics. His comics were incredibly personal to him and I think he probably craved more dialogue with others about them. Having re-read all of his books in the past two weeks before he died I was ready to. I was ready for him to get better and right this wrong. We never got the chance.


This is the part that I'm afraid to talk about but I feel I need to. Exactly one week before Dylan died I had a dream. It was the most realistic dream I've ever had.

In my dream I was at a party and everyone was there. Dylan was there but being Dylan he had lots of friends and he was making the rounds. Famous people were there too. It was in a house and there were several levels. At one point I ended up noticing that Hayao Miyazaki was there. No, it was not Miyazaki but Charles Shulz. No, Osamu Tezuka.

I ended up talking with Maurice Sendak. Sendak was talking with me and asked where Dylan was. I said that I knew Dylan was here but he was probably making the rounds and that Sendak would have to look for him. I remember Maurice Sendak clearly, lovingly shouting, "Where's that sunuvabitch Williams? Where's that sunuvabitch Williams?" It made me laugh.

Later, during the party I ran into Dylan. Dylan was sick but he was standing with another person at the end of a hall next to a staircase that descended. I could tell he was sick because of his spirit. He asked me where "he" was. The "he" person he was referring to was the Sendak/Tezuka/Shulz/Miyazaki composite. I told Dylan that "he" wanted to meet him but that "he" couldn't find him. "Where is he Aron!? Where is he?!"

Dylan look so gravely at me. He was disappointed that I didn't bring Sendak/Shulz/Tezuka/Miyazaki to meet him. I felt that Dylan was implying that there wasn't much time left and that he'd missed his opportunity to meet this person/people. Dylan did at least seem pleased at my impression of Sendak saying, "Where's that sunuvabitch Williams..." It kind of softened the blow of not meeting those guys, I felt.


Because of Dylan's sickness I started to feel really bad for him and I went down the stairs. I started feeling really sad. The lighting was kind of dim and warm like in a bar. I went and slumped down on the ground next to an empty sofa chair. I curled up and started to cry. I tried to control it and did a little. I didn't want anyone seeing my face so I put my arm in front.

Dylan came into the room. Dylan was exactly himself and no combination of any other people. No misunderstanding. This was the real Dylan. He had been working on some drawings upstairs on large crinkly sheets of paper. He handed one off to someone sitting at a booth in front of me. It was meant for that person. He made it for them.

Next, Dylan turned and came towards me. I felt his presence and it made me feel loved. He came to me and unfolded a sheet of paper. I knew it was for me. It said my name in the corner with black pastel scribbled letters. He came to me with this sheet of paper and when I reached out for it he pulled back. He pulled back slowly and revealed that the paper was constructed to have 3-d parts coming off of it. He put his hand through the middle to reveal that it was like a hand-puppet plane. He handed it to me. I wondered if Pixar was going to do a lame movie about planes next or if it was up to me to make a lame book.

Dylan's present to me felt like a parting. I started to feel really bad. I thought how could this be a parting if he was still alive. Is it that he knows he's dying? Then I started to lift off the ground and everything started filling with a white wash. A printed program was coming into focus front and center of my field. It said on it, "Dylan Williams Memorial Service." Dylan was now dead. I knew that there was to be a coffin and service later. I started to feel really sad, because he had known he was dying and had arranged this party for everyone to be with him before it happened. So he could say goodbye.

After the dream, I woke up and immediately started sobbing and shaking. The clock read 5:26. I thought Dylan had actually died in real life. I stayed up crying all morning. I checked Facebook to see if it was true. I wrote Emily a letter saying that we'd like to visit him in the hospital if he'd let us. It was my way of asking if he was still alive. Fact was, Dylan was still alive. He was getting better even.

I got my wish to see him in the hospital. I felt like an idiot for having that dream and for freaking out. We visited him on Labor day and the hospital was eerily empty. I told him about my dream, minus the part about him dying of course. He said, "whoa!" We talked about food. We talked about my new kid's book which I gave him a copy of. I tried to talk to him about an issue of Reporter but I think I misinterpreted it. We talked about his various stages of hair and facial hair. We talked about people in their twenties trying to figure things out for themselves. I was lamenting friends who'd moved away. Friends who were instrumental at bringing people together. Friends like Dylan. But, not exactly, because I feel like Dylan could have moved away and he'd still be there.

A few days ago, when I attended Dylan's real funeral, Emily related to us a story. About how after Dylan had his last surgery, a surgery that he might not have woken up from, he woke up and told her that he had been in a place where he felt everyone's love. It was really positive. I like to imagine that this happened at the same time as my dream. That my dream was more than just my uncontrollable fear of losing my friend.



The three photos here are the only ones I have that really relate to me and Dylan. The first was taken by Sarah Oleksyk at SPX in 2007. It was a lot of fun. I dove in-between a bed and Dylan jumped on top. The second was taken by Greg Means. Alec Longstreth was in town and luckily we all could meet up. The third was taken by Dylan himself on my computer when I was reading at Powell's. His little joke that I didn't discover for a few weeks after. That's all I have.

The comics community I knew and loved has been changed forever by this and many other blows this year. It'll never be the same. I hope we can learn something from Dylan's incredible gift of connecting and communicating with people and make something new and amazing. I'm trying.

Goodbye my friend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Buy Some Sparkplug Books Already.


Dear reader, recently my friend and publisher, Dylan Williams, of Sparkplug Comic Books has taken ill and it has been a hard time for both him and his wife Emily. I'm glad somebody started a fundraiser to help them out financially while they deal with medical costs.

How does the fundraiser work you ask? Buy some comics and help Dylan and Emily. Go here to browse some of the best comics being published today and help my friends out. Not only can you help them out you can also get some awesome books while you're at it. While there are many great Sparkplug titles, some of my favorites are the following:

Sausage Hand by Andrew Smith: - Beautiful artwork and bizaare stream-of conciousness style comics. Usually I'm not a fan of gross-out comics, but this is much, much more.

I Want Everything To Be Okay by Carrie McNinch:
This book, published by Tugboat Press (Sparkplug not only publishes but also distributes for many artsits and other small presses) is one of the best autobiographical comics ever. This is true. I should go back and read it again. Check out any of her comics.

Department of Art #1 by Dunja Jankovic: Rendered with a painter's eye with what looks like graphite, charcoal, and paint, this book is a surreal trip to read over and over. The flow from panel to panel, and the uniqueness of this work is what stands out to me. Dunja's made a sequel to this comic which is great too.

Watching Days Become Years by Jeff Levine:
Each issue in this series acts as visual poetry. I love the way Levin's line work breathes life and effortlessness into the pages. I really enjoy the slow, moody, and self-reflective stories.

Eschew by Robert Sergal: Rarely does anyone's linework look as flawless as Robert Sergals in this comic series. I have to say I feel sort of an affinity with Robert's work as far as his design aesthetic and story pacing, plotting, etc. Really nice comics and from what I can tell, extremely underrated.

I Was Born But... by Emily Nilsson: Emily knows how to write! Also, I have an illustration in this zine. Emily has more work out there but you've got to try hard to find it.

Reporter by Dylan Williams: Dylan publishes and makes comics too!! Yes, it's true. A fellow Xeric grant recipient, Dylan has created a set of stories that support one another yet can stand by themselves. Number 5 is my favorite right now... Reporter feels like a film noir from the 50s.

Passage by Tessa Brunton: The most recent of Sparkplug Books... I haven't read it, but I saw the mini-comics. This is the book I'm buying.

So that's it for now. I'd recommend more but there's too many. Then I'd have to explain why I left certain ones out!

There you have it. I can't recommend Sparkplug Books anymore. They truely are some of the best comics being published today. Dylan is a great friend and a pillar of the comics community. Someone once said, "nicest guy in comics" and I can't think of anyone better to recieve that title. I hope you can help him out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Plans 5!


I'm posting this image twice, because I love it so much. I have this insane idea of doing the whole comic in color. It'd be prohibitively expensive, I know, but the thought is nice.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Big Plans 5 on Kickstarter?

Hey ya'll. I'm just waiting to hear from Kickstarter if they'll let me do a project or not. What I want to do is a 112-page issue of Big Plans. It will be full-color with a printing limited to 700. I can't really ask for any more money. Big books cost a lot. And my distribution is dismal. So, anyway, I want to put this up so you can get a sense of how the color cover will look. This is the spread, including the spine, which will go well with Neptune. Not sure if the cover price will be 10 or 12$. We'll see how much $ I get or don't. I'm really scared the project won't get funded. It's up to you to make it happen! Spread the word. Well, when the word is out. It's not yet. Check for updates.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Big Plans 5

Big Plans 5 is officially done. That is, I'm working on the last minor Photoshop edits. Tomorrow is the InDesign stage and I'm getting quotes from the printer. It's 112 pages, and will probably be perfect bound. I'm thinking I'm going to do this as a Kickstarter project. Keep your ear out for updates.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Letters Column


I'm now accepting new letters for a letters column in Big Plans 5. If you want to write to me you can email me at 2d46aron@vfs.com or just post a comment. Please give me your full name and city, state, country.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Animator in a previous life.

Back in 2005, I storyboarded and did some animation on this Shin's music video. I'm posting it now because I had a conversation with my wife's step-dad the other day about matching live action with animation. Halfway through the conversation I realized that I have actually matched animation with live action before. The video itself is not my favorite, but you can skip to the 3:53 or the 4:26 marker to see the little bit of animation I'm talking about. It isn't perfect, but I'm still proud of it in some way.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Home Alone




























This is a comic that I started largely as an experiment. I had an extra sketchbook I didn't have a use for so I just decided to start a story without knowing where it was going. It ended up chronicling one of my many trips to the convenience store for late night beer.