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SHOWCASE 4 and FALLEN ANGEL in Punk Planet

Updated May 25, 2007

March and April 2007
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Fallen Angel

  SHOWCASE #4 reviewed in the Patriot-News

Updated November 15, 2006

Drawn and Quarterly Showcase No. 4
Drawn and Quarterly, 102 pages, $14.95.

Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch contribute to this annual anthology devoted to (relatively) new cartoonists. Bell and Zettwoch's contributions are the stand-outs here. Bell's story in particular, involving an insecure art student who attempts to teach the son of a famous sculptor, is the best thing she's done yet and well worth the price of admission.
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A bunch of D+Q books reviewed in the Globe & Mail

Updated October 25, 2006

The Globe & Mail

Nothing novel about these works
For NATHALIE ATKINSON, the fall's best graphic books aren't necessarily novels, but collections and anthologies


In the recent harvest of graphic novels, no particular long-form work stands out. Marisa Marchetto's memoir Cancer Vixen (reviewed Oct. 7 in Globe Books) will be the most popular crossover title of the season; Pride of Baghdad, a story plucked from the headlines about Baghdad zoo animals freed by the stray bombs, sneaks into reviews like a lion in sheep's clothing but is simply a slight bit of well-executed genre action fiction (whoops! there it goes again); and the much-ballyhooed 9/11 Report, albeit a record of one of the most important government reports of modern times, is little more than a hastily cobbled info-graphic.

The most anticipated sophomore efforts are also light. Chicken With Plums (Pantheon, 84 pages, $22.95), Marjane Satrapi's first major work since her acclaimed graphic memoir Persepolis, is the story of her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, a famous tar musician in Iran. It recounts the eight days leading to his death and reconstructs the facts of his life in semi-fictitious flashbacks. It is an interesting story, but lacks the presence of a spunky young Satrapi that made Persepolis so compelling.

Similarly, Shenzhen (Drawn & Quarterly, 148 pages, $24.95) is another closely observed travelogue by Guy Delisle; while China has inherently more potential for humour than last fall's North Korea-set Pyongyang (as in a sequence where the animator abroad observes a man slipping on a banana peel), like Chicken, it doesn't have the topical hook.

No, the excitement this season comes not from a single long-form work, but from interesting anthologies and collections. The publication of two major graphic anthologies is a significant milestone for the medium, an indicator of critical mass, and both are just appearing in bookstores this week.

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories (Yale University Press, 400 pages, $32) is edited by cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, best known for his self-loathing comic Schizo. In this comprehensive primer, Brunetti fills every page to assemble a contemporary cartoon canon that occupies the comics position of the Norton Anthology of Literature (with a gorgeous dust jacket designed by Seth that even comix cognoscenti won't be able to resist).

He also reproduces a handful of short pieces that are not only essential, but extremely influential. Jaime Hernandez's perfectly crafted short story Flies on the Ceiling is an exemplary distillation of why Hernandez is among the best living cartoonists, and Here, by Richard McGuire, is a hard-to-find short comic often cited by Chris Ware as a key influence (it's a formalist experiment with time and panel structure).

Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary appears, as does Love's Savage Fury by Mark Newgarden, wherein, using Nancy and Bazooka Joe, he deconstructs cartoon panels while playing with the geometric elements of Nancy's composition. Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware's comics tributes to Charles Schulz after his death -- which simultaneously render homage to Schulz's characters and iconic style while cleverly embodying their own signature tics -- precede Schulz's own illustrated essay on developing a comic strip (first published in 1959).

For context, Brunetti provides small morsels of the most influential old material from comics history, like a Gene Deitch cover, Crockett Johnson's Barnaby (circa 1946) and a Harvey Kurtzmann. It includes a roll call of the new generation, like Kevin Huizenga, Gabrielle Bell and Lauren Weinstein, and overlooks not a single contemporary artist: there's Chester Brown, Carol Tyler, Lynda Barry, surrealist Mark Beyer (whole nihilist punk avant-garde is probably the most difficult acquired taste in comics) and, of course, several R. Crumb selections, including Uncle Bob's Mid-Life Crisis, in which the cartoonist lies in bed and ruminates on his neuroses, elaborate sexual fantasies and jazz. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction is a delicious brick of a book.

Alas, The Best American Comics 2006 (Houghton Mifflin, 293 pages, $29.95) -- the inaugural comics offering from the successful "Best American" franchise -- suffers by comparison. While accessible, it lacks both the design and vision of the Yale compendium, with a whole less than the sum of its parts.

Although guest edited by Harvey Pekar, there is little editorial point of view or mandate at work other than the strictures of year of publication. Highlights include Joe Sacco's reportage on the current war in Iraq from the Guardian, R. Crumb's Walk in the Streets and the inclusion of a few newcomers seldom seen outside of zines and comic shops, such as Canadian Rebecca Dart.

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase No. 4 (Drawn & Quarterly, 102 pages, $19.95) publishes the short stories of three emerging cartoonists (not one born before the first Star Wars movie). In the opening story, a stint in art school leads cartoonist Gabrielle Bell to a job teaching an awkward 12-year-old to draw and an emotional entanglement with him and his father; this single story is more polished than Lucky, a collection of her diary comics also published this fall.

In a personal narrative washed in olive and red tones, Dan Zettwoch recounts his father's escapades in the great 1937 Louisville flood in a homemade boat. It's intensely researched and evokes the architecture and layout of the city, while Zettwoch's diagrammatic cartoons captures details from makeshift bridges to his father's grumbling stomach.

Martin Cendreda's Dog Days conjures a hot suburban summer day where kids cheat the video game at the local liquor store, stray dogs fight after wallowing in cool water, and a childhood excursion is interrupted by reports of a serial killer on the loose.

Before Joe Sacco made a name for himself as a reportage cartoonist in war zones in Palestine and the former Yugoslavia, he was a long-haired rock-obsessed cartoonist, living the grunge life in Washington and touring Europe with Seattle-based neo-psychedelic rock band the Miracle Workers. But I Like It (Fantagraphics, 122 pages, $29.95) collects his comics of the same (with a CD of live music) as Sacco chronicles his days as a hanger-on and poster artist in Berlin; and in the best story, lays bare his Rolling Stones obsession.

The most notable collected Canadian offering is This Will All End in Tears (Insomniac, 168 pages, $21.95), the third book of collected stories by Montreal-based cartoonist Joe Ollman. Ollman's narratives aren't happy tales; in Big Boned, Charlene lives with her bossy mother, eats in secret, obsesses about her weight and nurses an unrequited crush on her pimply office-mate Donny. Other characters are burdened with sadness, alcoholism and unwanted responsibility as Ollman's characteristic cartooning captures the everyday grotesque. Ollman's increasingly complex storytelling also grows more assured with each book and it's an aptly titled collection.

Of the single-artist collections this season, Curses (Drawn & Quarterly, 144 pages, $24.95), by Kevin Huizenga, stands out as the most coherent and consistently articulate. The link throughout these disparate stories is recurring protagonist and everyman Glenn Ganges, a blank slate and stand-in for the cartoonist. Ganges's calming presence lends Huizenga's narratives a matter-of-fact quality, however fantastical or absurd the premise may be.

In Green Tea (A Glenn Ganges Remix), Huizenga adapts a Victorian suspense story by J. Sheridan Le Fanu in which Dr. Hesselius investigates the suicide of Rev. Jennings and combines strange psychic phenomena (visions of a phantom monkey, a dog carrying a severed forearm) with mundane details about college all-nighters. 28th Street is based on an Italian folk tale by Italo Calvino: Ganges and his wife Wendy struggle with infertility and he is dispatched by various strangers on a quest to pluck a plume from a feathered ogre. Navigating through the suburban sprawl cluttered with neon signs, 24-hour fresh marts and big-box stores on his quest, Ganges douses his eyes with "magic" gasoline, is presented with an enchanted Styrofoam take-home container and eventually dons a magic plastic bag to wear over his head to trick the ogre.

Using primarily a clear line style (think Tintin creator Hergé), Huizenga uses comics to articulate complex patterns, recurring motifs and connected relationships. In Lost and Found, Ganges imagines the stories that might lie in the space between photos and descriptions of abducted and abductor he reads every week on missing children's flyers, then associates this idea with a news item on the "Lost Boys" -- the bands of barefoot Sudanese orphans who crossed the desert on foot and eventually came to the United States as refugees. Here especially Huizenga is masterful at illustrating how the mind makes connections, and his ability to communicate this circularity, in comics form, is particularly elegant.

In Curses' title story, Ganges's neighbourhood is terrorized by insomnia thanks to a noisy winter roost of starlings. Huizenga mixes facts about a Mozart composition with the data that up to half the output of the starling flock (technically and evocatively called "murmurations") may actually consist of sounds related to automobiles (like the whine of power windows, traffic and screeching tires) because starlings, as cousins of the mynah bird, are outstanding mimics.

As a sleepless Ganges wanders through his sleepy neighbourhood listening for distant freight trains and the hum of power lines, the content of the starlings' word balloons slowly changes from notes to images of the sounds their song may emulate. In these panels, Huizenga's inventive use of the graphic medium's language is the quintessential example of a sequence possible only in comics.

Nathalie Atkinson is The Globe and Mail's graphic books reviewer.
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Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Four

  Nashville City Paper reviews SHOWCASE #4

Updated September 21, 2006

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase No. 4
By Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch
(Drawn & Quarterly)

At a time when there’s a very healthy field of good anthologies being published, Drawn & Quarterly Showcase continues to stand out, here in its fourth volume presenting three stories that are each something special and deeply enjoyable.

Gabrielle Bell contributes a story of art, relationships and life lessons. Anna is an art student trying to find her footing who ends up instructing a famous artist’s son on how to paint. It’s a very quiet and restrained story, reminiscent of Adrian Tomine, where what isn’t being said is more important than what is. Emotions and feelings here aren’t proclaimed aloud like they are so often in a lot of stories, but through awkward gestures and veiled conversations – much too like real life.

The second cartoonist, Martin Cendreda, turns in a story about a town haunted by a supposed dog spirit that’s killing neighbors, except it’s really about a boy and his grandfather and the community they live in.

Continuing the community-exploration theme, the book wraps things up with Dan Zettwoch’s account of the 1937 flood in Louisville, Ky., as narrated by his grandfather. Zettwoch has fun with his art, breaking down panel borders, using one large image to illustrate several little moments, etc. And he packs in so much detail into the 30 pages – you not only get a sense of what Zettwoch’s grandfather was like and what the flood was like, but also the town, its people, the time period – Zettwoch crams it all in there. It’s a great, great little story.

This here is another strong Showcase, spotlighting some truly notable creative talent.

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The Comics Journal reviews SHOWCASE #4

Updated September 13, 2006

The Comics Journal
Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Written by Dirk Deppey

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #4
Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch
Drawn & Quarterly
102 pages, $14.95
ISBN: 189659798X

Perhaps the biggest cliché surrounding art-comics anthologies is that they tend to be mixed bags in terms of the quality of the contributions. It's true, for the most part -- anthologies with a sizeable number of contributors tend to find the works on display dividing themselves into A-listers (solid, engaging contributions that you'd buy even if they were the only content in a given book), B-listers (acceptable work that fleshes out many anthologies but are less likely to stand on their own) and C-listers (everything else).

Drawn & Quarterly's Showcase series generally manages to blunt this syndrome by avoiding an overload of different works, instead focusing on two or three cartoonists and giving them a color palette and page count sufficient to let them spread out and fill their pages with considered, complex stories. That the D&Q staff have excellent taste in cartoonists doesn't hurt, either. That said, the "A,B,C" syndrome doesn't entirely go away, if for no other reason than that the reader really can't help but ranking contributions against one another. Still, the results at least reach a higher benchmark.

Case in point: The new fourth volume, which contains work by Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch. Each is a promising cartoonist whose learning curve has already put him or her in the ranks of storytellers to watch, yet still shows every indication of having better work waiting in the wings. If each artist seems to be at a different point along the trail at the moment, they each nonetheless demonstrate a skill and storytelling faculty worth noting.

This volume opens with its strongest piece, Gabrielle Bell's untitled story of, oddly enough, three artistic aspirants at different stages of the growth process. The central character is Anna, a representational painting student whose spirit is slowly being crushed by the preconceived notions of the teachers and fellow-travelers around her. When conceptual sculptor Frank Reinhart hires her to teach his young son how to draw, the stage is set for a philosophical struggle between two competing views of art played out between father and son, with Anna serving as battleground.

This all sounds didactic, but it really isn't; discussions of art occur frequently, but they're framed in a continuum of conversations and slice-of-life episodes that place the characters front and center in the story, as written by an author with a firm grasp on how to tell a satisfying and thought-provoking short story. Bell, no slouch as a representational artist herself, makes no secret of where her loyalties lie in the debate, but still has a firm enough grasp of the gambits and pretenses of the modern art world to provide the reader with what feels like a fairly nuanced portrayal of its inhabitants. By contrasting the complex motivations of an acknowledged master of said world with the simple aims of a child learning to draw, Bell is able to make her case without seeming to hit the reader over the head with a hammer, allowing the tale to circle in on its central theme in a naturalistic fashion, rather than resorting to the clunky aethetic moralizing for which a lesser artist might have been tempted to reach. The result is an engaging short story that presents its themes with dexterity and subtlety, leading to an ending that hints at resolution while implying further complications beyond the last panel. It's not quite a bravura performance, but it's close enough to make you notice.

By contrast, Martin Cendreda's story, "Dog Days," can't help but pale a bit in comparison. A slice-of-life tale involving bored children and their semi-superstitious elders, set against the distant backdrop of a serial killer on the loose, Cendreda's contibution is well-crafted but not particularly original. In some ways, it's as aimless as the children it follows around. This is in some ways the effect for which Cendreda seems to be aiming, and the results are amiable enough -- Cendreda brings an engaging illustration style and sense of visual narrative to the proceedings, and consequently has no problem capturing the reader's attention. The problem is, "Dog Days" feels a bit slight once one reaches the story's conclusion, especially following on the heels of Bell's masterful story.

Dan Zettwoch's contribution, "Won't Be Licked!", feels more solid and innovative, and its storytelling sensibility is different enough to help it stand out from the other two contributions to this issue. Set against the backdrop of Louisville, Kentucky's grievous 1937 flood, Zettwoch's story avoids the naturalism of the previous two tales in favor of a clever, technically accomplished historical travelogue, as we follow a resourceful young man around the town in an improvised boat, visiting each neighborhood and examining what happened from his perspective. Zettwoch has perhaps the firmest grasp of the comics language of anyone to appear in Showcase this side of Sammy Harkham, and while his previous minicomics have seemed at times to almost drown Spiegelman-like in their own conceptual cleverness, here Zettwoch keeps the artifice restrained in service to the narrative. "Won't Be Licked!" is too modest a tale to be called a significant leap forward, but it's clearly a demonstration of Zettwoch's growing maturity as a cartoonist. Alas, like "Dog Days," this isn't a story that could survive scrutiny if left to stand on its own; it's too slight, however entertaining.

None of this is to say that Cendreda and Zettwoch's contributions are bad by any means, but they're both anthology B-listers, a status that only becomes more apparent in proximity to Gabrielle Bell's masterful opening tale. Perhaps the anthology format simply defeats all attempts to overcome its limitations. Even so, together these three short stories manage to flesh out another issue of an collection that, if not the best of its kind, may perhaps be the sturdiest currently being published.
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  D&Q titles in the MONTREAL HOUR gift guide

Updated December 6, 2005

Books Front

December 1st, 2005
Books, books, more books for the holidays

Gifts for geeks

Nothing says "I love you" like 250 pages of small print! Here are some books Hour writers enjoyed

[D&Q mentions:]

The Push Man and Other Stories, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn and Quarterly)

The brainchild of renowned comic artist Adrian Tomine, who pens the volume's introduction, this collection of comic strips by Yoshihiro Tatsumi reveals to the English world the heretofore untranslated work of a man known as the grandfather of alternative Japanese comics. The designation is appropriate: Tatsumi, born in 1935 and active in comics for decades, makes quiet, dark biographies of troubled people making their misguided way in an overpopulated and heartless society - fare that could be signed by anyone today, from Joe Sacco to Julie Doucet. The beautifully bound book will be a delightful discovery for anyone into the medium, enveloping the reader in an addictive world of sexual alienation and emotional crippling. (Isa Tousignant)

Drawn and Quarterly Showcase Three, by various artists (Drawn and Quarterly)

If you're looking to introduce someone on your list to the joys of narrative art, then a compendium like this is a great - and inexpensive - place to start. The crème of this third showcase of work by artists published by Drawn and Quarterly is one of my all-time favourite comic creators, Geneviève Elverum (previously Geneviève Castrée), whose transporting vision and deft draftsmanship grow with every passing year. Also included in this collection is work by two Americans (a depressingly lovely comic by L.A.'s Sammy Harkham and an ominous, surreal mystery by Matt Broersma), which all together give a good, wide spanning perspective on what graphic writing can be. (Isa Tousignant)

Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq, by Steve Mumford (Drawn and Quarterly)

Each one of the many colour plates in this impressive volume is an accomplished work of art that expresses nearly tangibly the warmth, smell and sense of a place in time. Mumford is an New York-based American war artist who produced his journal after four voyages to war-torn Iraq in 2003 and '04. His commentary is fascinating and intensive, if a bit frustratingly objective for those whose political leanings may be more critical. The strength of his perspective rests within his humanizing of all sides of this polarized conflict, from soldier to citizen. Baghdad Journal is a rich read, which, if given as a gift, will provide its recipient with days of intelligent entertainment. (Isa Tousignant)
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SHOWCASE 3 and PYONGYANG in the Patriot-News

Updated December 6, 2005


4 December 2005

"Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Vol. 3," Drawn and Quarterly, 96 pages, $14.95.

Genevieve Elverum, Sammy Harkham and Matt Broersma are the featured artists in this latest edition of D&Q's squarebound anthology. All three cartoonists create striking works here, though I'm particularly taken with Elverum's surreal tone-poem involving elephants, yetis and abject loneliness. This series remains a great way to be introduced to new work, and if you haven't heard of any of these artists, this is a fine place to start.

"Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea" by Guy Delisle, Drawn and Quarterly, 176 pages, $19.95.

An animator, Delisle spent several months in the capital of North Korea overseeing the outsourcing work of a particular cartoon. His experiences make up this book, a surreal and rather frightening look at life under one of the only utterly totalitarian regimes left on the globe.

Delisle paints a rather disturbing portrait of a land where every aspect of daily life is dedicated toward slavishly honoring its leaders, the deceased Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il. Anything with implications that all is not well (and there are plenty) are ignored for fear of never being seen again.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about "Pyongyang" is that despite spending time in North Korea, Delisle gets no nearer to understanding its citizens than the rest of us. The country is a frozen mask propped up with the shakiest of equipment. Delisle does a superb job of showing us the ultimate cost of maintaining such an artifice.

Christopher Mautner
The Patriot-News

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (hardcover)


Updated November 28, 2005

Booklist. Volume 102; Issue 5
1 November 2005

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Three. Ed. by Chris Oliveros. 2005. 96p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, paper, $14.95 (1-896597-88-2). 741.5.

The latest in Drawn & Quarterly's series spotlighting up-and-coming talent again presents impressive work from three countries. French-Canadian Geneviève Elverum offers three connected minimalist fables dreamily portraying a young woman's reactions to depression, domesticity, and motherhood in delicate watercolors that, thanks largely to her keen graphic skills, make them whimsical without being cloying. Representing the U.S., Sammy Harkham-founder of the cutting-edge comics and graphic arts zine Kramers Ergot-sympathetically, but with open eyes, recounts a teenage girl's languid summer of sex, boozing, and friendship. Harkham, whose visual approach is indebted to Chester Brown's Yummy Fur, uses a uniform, nine-panel grid to convey the slow, measured passing of the season. England's Matt Broersma is the traditionalist here. His grisly, humorous tale of the ghost of one Dr. Frobisher, walking the earth trying to retrieve his body, recalls French master Jacques Tardi in its art and storytelling; the story per se could be a Richard Sala yarn (see Sala's Mad Night, reviewed in this issue). The strongest Drawn & Quarterly Showcase yet. -Gordon Flagg

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SHOWCASE 3 reviewed by the ONION A.V. CLUB

Updated November 15, 2005

Reviewed by Keith Phipps, Noel Murray, Tasha Robinson

The latest issues of Drawn & Quarterly Showcase (D&Q), Mome (Fantagraphics), and Blab (Fantagraphics) continue to help define the burgeoning art-comics movement, packing their pages with crude doodles, impenetrable design experiments, and the occasional readable story.

In Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #3, Sammy Harkham's "Somersaulting" incisively documents the casual hedonism and unrealistic expectations of two small-town high-school girls, the summer before their senior year.
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  PYONGYANG and SHOWCASE #3 reviewed by Austin Chronicle

Updated October 31, 2005

Book Reviews

Drawn and Quarterly, the independent comics company responsible for some of the most artful and literary graphic volumes in the world, has been lying doggo for a while. Maybe they had to take a breather after releasing Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook and Adrian Tomine's Scrapbook, two really big projects, one after the other, along with several more humble offerings? In any case, the fallow time has paid off, rewarding readers with an impressive new crop of publications (www.drawnandquarterly.com). Here's a look at two of them.

Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea
by Guy Delisle

Drawn and Quarterly, 184 pp. $19.95

What's it really like in North Korea, that putative bastion of repressive police-statery? What's it like behind the Kim Jong-il headlines, beyond the shallower Web links? There's a somewhat limited view presented in this journalistic tome by French-Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle, but the limitations arise from neither the man's reporting abilities nor his drawing style. The view afforded by this new book is the most Delisle could glean from his chaperoned and regimented two-month stay in the capital city, and as such it's damned revealing.
Delisle was in Pyongyang to help direct animation for one of North Korea's scientific and educational studios. He employs a softly penciled, monocolor cartoon style and a wide variety of panel sizes and pacing to depict his time working, fraternizing with expatriates in late-night hotel lounges, engaging in stunted banter with his hosts, and being toured around the country to various national shrines. Delisle employs also a deft sense of humor that serves as counterpoint (for the reader now, as it did for the author then) to the prescribed earnestness of his surroundings. Especially for those who worry that our own country is becoming more and more of a police state? Here's a friendly little blueprint to the foreign terminus of your nightmares.

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #3
edited by Chris Oliveros

Drawn and Quarterly, 95 pp.; $14.95 (paper)

This, the third in Drawn & Quarterly's series of yearly anthologies, requires no interest in a particular country, no pre-established appreciation of comics as an art form, no conditions at all. Even more than its previous incarnations, this year's Showcase will appeal to anyone with a heart and a mind, tweaking nodes of intellectual pleasure even as it floods the emotional cortex with a mulligatawny of subtle, blatant, and – yes – contradictory feelings.

D&Q honcho Oliveros presents a mere three stories in this volume: "We're Wolf" by relative newcomer Genevieve Elverum, "Somersaulting" by Kramers Ergot founder Sammy Harkham, and "The Mummy" by former Osaka lounge singer (!) Matt Broersma. These three stories are enough. Hell, they're much more than enough.

Elverum's tale, illustrated in a delicately watercolored style that suggests Richard Scarry in the throes of an Edward Gorey obsession, is an episodic meditation on love, belonging, and personal identity. The visual metaphors for depression and home will break your heart; the care taken with their rendering will join the broken pieces back together on every page.

Harkham's "Somersaulting" examines the life of a teenage girl, the artist's sharp pen lines and strict nine-panels-per-page layout delineating characters as incisively as the chosen scenes delineate our protagonist's high-school-era existence. Who else captures this time of life so well in comics? Maybe Clowes, Tomine, or Brown. And that "maybe" is indicative of the strength and beauty of Harkham's work here.

Broersma's "Frobisher" – its look and tone, the narrative's eerie conceit – reeks of European style and flair, the way a good Roquefort reeks of the excellent taste it embodies. Observe the adventures of Malvern Yoshimoto, intrepid reporter, as her trip to Brussels (circa 1920) tangles her with the machinations of the mysterious Dr. Frobisher.

"What will it take to seduce you?" asks a passage in Elverum's "We're Wolf." This newest Showcase from Drawn & Quarterly, we suggest, might be an awful good start.
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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (hardcover)

SHOWCASE 3 online review by Nashville City Paper

Updated September 19, 2005

Web only:

Graphic Content

September 16, 2005

Comics continue to storm the mainstream, with the recent announcement by The New York Times that their magazine will start serializing a new graphic novel from Chris Ware, the quality of the graphic novel-turned-movie A History of Violence being the one thing everyone seems to agree on at the Toronto Film Festival, and the White House acknowledging comics as the one true great American art form. Well, let’s give that last one some time. Meanwhile, on with the reviews …

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Three

By Geneviève Elverum, Sammy Harkham and Matt Broersma

Drawn & Quarterly has a history of exposing deserving cartoonists to a wider audience, which they continue to do with this third volume of their Showcase series. Each of the three cartoonists is a fresh talent, resulting in a package varying in voices and strong in quality.

Geneviève Elverum delivers a flowing, very loose narrative about young love and the development of family in “We’re Wolf!” via a spread of beautiful images and lucid colors that look so soft they make you want to feel the images.

Sammy Harkham, the editor of the gloriously ambitious Kramer’s Ergot anthology, turns in a simple yet connecting story about a suburb summer, a perfectly distilled representation of first loves, confusing friendships and lots and lots of idle time. Neither nostalgic nor sentimental, “Somersaulting” is further proof that Harkham is a creative mind to watch.

Matt Broersma’s “The Mummy” is an amusing two-part contribution, a tale of a long-lived king, an intrepid female journalist, and the king’s delayed demise set against the backdrop of a nameless, timeless European setting.
If only all anthologies boasted such strength and promise.

By Wil Moss, wmoss@nashvillecitypaper.com

To find a comic store near you, call (888) COMIC-BOOK or visit csls.diamondcomics.com.

Review copies can be sent to:
The City Paper
Attn: Wil Moss
P.O. Box 158434
Nashville, TN 37215-8434
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  Pics of Sammy Harkahm's art show at Meltdown Comics!

Updated September 8, 2005

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D&Q SHOWCASE 3 on Comics World News

Updated August 24, 2005

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 Published Weekly

Drawn & Quarterly's Latest Showcase

How does number three measure up?

The first edition of the Drawn & Quarterly Showcase was easily my favorite between it and the second volume. For some reason, the second one never really registered with me as a reader despite a promising line-up. I hadn’t really been expecting much out of the third volume either until I saw the artists involved. Genevieve Elverum had contributed a neat story to Kramer’s Ergot volume 4 and Sammy Harkham hasn’t yet done anything that I haven’t totally fallen for.

Now with the release of the third volume, the first is still my favorite, but just barely. This third volume is good. It’s well balanced between the less conventional form of narrative by Genevieve Elverum, the more traditional nine panel grid of Sammy Harkham, and Matt Broersma’s work that falls somewhere in the middle. However, nothing hit me like Huizenga’s Glen Ganges story this time.

In the third volume, there are three contributors featured. The first section from Genevieve Elverum ignores normal layouts in favor of floating images loosely tied together with accompanying text. Elverum splits her sections into three meditations on life, with the first being the most convincing. It’s easier to conceptualize something like depression with pictures and she does so in a very compelling manner. “What is depression,” is scrawled in a looping cursive style at the top of the first page. Then there are three drawings of a girl on her bed. There are no backgrounds, just the girl and the bed, beautifully rendered in just the right amount and tone of color. In the first picture, the girl holds a book and squints as if she’s pondering the question about depression. In the second, she’s dropped her book to the ground and wrapped a pillow tightly around the back of her head. In the third, she’s still on the bed, but she’s on her knees. The pillow is still wrapped around the back of her head, but she’s leaning forward. Her mouth is wide open in a scream, her hair is wild and there are little flecks of spittle in the air. The text at the top of the next page answers the question, “What is depression?” It reads, “the feeling of skin being too tight…” The next image is of the girl screaming into her pillow.

Perhaps, I was moved too much by her first story that the next part fell short, but it didn’t resonate as much when I read the second part. Elverum changes scenery to a wintry mountainside as she thinks about true love and the way it changes a person’s life. The ending is cute though; actually it’s adorable. This section proves that D&Q still has a knack for recognizing under utilized talent. Elverum also provides the front and back cover of Showcase 3.

Kramer’s Ergot editor Sammy Harkham provides the middle section of this Showcase. His is an unhurried piece that explores the boredom of a summer in a dead-end town just before the senior year of high school. There’s nothing spectacular that takes place in these pages, but the accumulated weight of the events feels like an event in itself. This could be anyone’s summer, but it belongs to a small group of young people and the families that revolve around them in the background. One girl wears her recently deceased brother’s shoes and another girl finds out that her boyfriend or “would be boyfriend” is drifting away from her just when it seems like she needs him the most.

Harkham uses white black and several shades of orange to capture the setting and emotion of his story. As a reader you almost feel trapped in the panels with the characters, as their summer rolls by like the waters of a lazy creek. Great cartoonists like Harkham understand how to structure stories in a way to encourage reader participation and here again he uses that skill. He uses quiet moments or panels that allow a reader to use their own life experience to augment the story. Comics can be great in this way. For example, you see a silent street or a drawing of a house, and maybe it looks like a street or house you’ve seen before. This isn’t a photograph of a street or a house, but a likeness. There’s room for interpretation and it gives the reader a sense of ownership in the story that’s somewhere between a novel where you use the author’s description then fill in the details in your mind, and a film where you’re almost passively accepting what you see on the screen.

The third artist featured in this volume was the one that I was unfamiliar with. Matt Broersma’s work struck me as a blend of Ben Katchor and Richard Sala, which is not a bad place to be in my mind. Visually, he has shades of both cartoonists, but story wise he leans closer to Sala. There’s a ghost that convinces a man to put his body to rest, only to show up in the third part of Broersma’s section as a hypnotist. In between the first and last story, is a piece on a female journalist that travels to exotic locales. She also is the engine that drives the last story. Occasionally, Broersma uses newspaper headlines to help tell his story and even includes an entire page, as a complete page in his own tale, of a fictional novel to help develop the character of an American author. It’s a tricky tool that could have failed in a different type of setting, but here it felt right at home.

Broersma uses shades of gray and green, similar to how Harkham uses orange. Broersma’s line is thicker than Harkham’s thin line, but shakier and less direct. This shaky line actually lends itself to the almost supernatural setting of this last section of Showcase. I enjoyed how little details reoccurred as Broersma’s tale played out on the page, most notably, the fictional novel by the playboy American writer that popped up at odd times. Visually, this was the least exciting part of Showcase Three, but the story and the way it was told made Broersma’s work something to keep an eye out for in the future.

The Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Three is a very reasonable $14.95 for just shy of 100 pages. I would also recommend the first volume that features a long Kevin Huizenga story and a piece by Nicholas Robel. It’s less than $12 on sale at the D&Q website.
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Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Three

  SHOWCASE 3 REVIEW by Comic Book Galaxy

Updated August 22, 2005

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Book Three Anthology featuring Genevieve Elverum, Sammy Harkham and Matt Broersma

Published by Drawn & Quarterly, $14.95 USD

This is another outstanding collection of up-and-coming cartoonists from perhaps the industry's premier art comics publisher. Here we are introduced to three new artists and each contribution is outstanding. The book opens with a piece by newcomer and cover artist Genevieve Elverum, whose ethereal tale of a young mother wandering through the tundra is both gorgeous and poetic. Elverum uses visual metaphors throughout this piece, mixing symbols of motherhood and love amidst her dreamlike tale. Her richly drawn watercolor artwork is sharp and striking. In the sample page, look at how Elverum draws questions using sign language, placing a single word in each corner of the page. It's an interesting technique mimicking very well the slow, broken pacing of actual sign language. The intricate latticework on this page also demonstrates Elverum's incredible sense of design and symmetry which pervades her work. As first impressions go, this was an outstanding debut, and further evidence that more and more intelligent artists are finding their voices through the medium of graphic novels.

Sammy Harkham, the editor and publisher of the outstanding Kramer's Ergot anthologies, contributes Somersaulting, a wistful tale of teenage angst set against the backdrop of a nameless Midwestern suburb. Harkham's story has many stylistic similarities with Kevin Huizenga, but artistically most resembles Chester Brown, who Harkham sites as a major influence in the bio preceding the story. His rigid use of the 9 grid page allows Harkham to control the pacing as he chronicles a summer break spent filled with casual sex, drinking and generally wasting time. It's a sensitive, insightful story and shows a keen sense of character development.

Finally, the issue ends on a high note, with Matt Broersma's fascinating The Last Voyage of Dr. Frobisher. Dr. Frobisher is a ghost, but the circumstances of his murder have trapped him in the mundane world, rather than allowing him his final respite. So, the Doctor takes matters into his own hands, orchestrating a series of events to finally bring about the peace he seeks. Broersma follows this tale with the preceding chapter, chronicling the life and death of Dr. Frobisher and his encounter with Malvern Yoshimoto, a famed British journalist and adventurer. Broersma's art is reminiscent of Jacque Tardi (see The Bloody Streets of Paris) mixed with a little Richard Sala influence, though his characters are more anatomically defined than Sala's. As with Elverum, this too is an outstanding debut, demonstrating both Broersma's cartooning and storytelling sensibilities. As always, this annual release delivers on its promise of introducing some of the brightest young cartoonists to a broader audience. Highly recommended.

Grade: 5 our of 5
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PW Gives Showcase Book 3 a "Starred" Review!

Updated May 23, 2005

*starred* Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Three
Genevieve Elverum, Sammy Harkham and Matt Broersma. Drawn & Quarterly, $14.95 paper (100p) ISBN 1-896597-88-2

Every year Drawn & Quarterly offers an anthology of lengthy stories by emerging young cartoonists; this installment is the strongest thus far, and a visually stunning book to boot. Elverum's "We're Wolf" is composed of a trilogy of adult fables about happiness, sadness and companionship drawn in a graceful, languid style. The vibrant colors, rarely seen in comics, give the artwork a fantastic life on the page, and the story announces Elverum as a major young talent. Occupying the middle spot is Kramer's Ergot editor Harkham's "Somersaulting," a tale of two friends and a long summer. Using a muted color palette of yellow, orange and black, Harkham effortlessly controls the story's mood, summoning the languid pace of summer as well as the gradual discovery of love and sex in the suburbs. Neither cynical nor sentimental, this tale plays like a long, clear-eyed tone poem to teenage summers. After two such dreamy stories, Broersma rounds out the book with the two-part "The Mummy," a charming and funny romp through a mythical mid-20th-century European locale, featuring tongue-in-cheek romance, intrigue and ghosts. Entertaining and wittily executed, it's the perfect complement to the more serious works in this essential new volume. (June)


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  Library Journal Reviews D+Q Showcase Book 2

Updated January 5, 2005

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book 2. Drawn & Quarterly. 2004. c.96p. ISBN1-896597-81-5. pap. $19.95. F

This is the second in a series of anthologies that publish the work of
emerging cartoonists. In Pentti Otsamo's "Life During Wartime," an
introverted boy on his first day in a new apartment has disastrous
encounters with the local children and animals, while his next-door
neighbor, an out-of-work cartoonist, laments his lot in life. The story's
feel is reminiscent of Debbie Drechsler's Summer of Love, and Otsamo's
artwork is simple-looking but strong. Jeffrey Brown (a Harvey Award nominee
for Unlikely) contributes a story of two loading dock workers who discover a
little girl's soiled clothes in the back of a truck. Hinting at rape and
murder, the story is told in a series of disjointed vignettes, some of which
digress into one worker's relationship with his manipulative and selfish
girlfriend. Brown's distorted, childlike cartooning and his awkward
lettering are an acquired taste. In Erick De Graaf's closing story, a young
boy's enchantment with his grandparents' farm is disturbed when he learns
what the term "slaughtering" means. Fans of slice-of-life comics will enjoy
this; recommended for larger adult collections. (from the Graphic Novels
column by Steve Raiteri)

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Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book One

UTNE features Anders NIlsen, Kevin Huizenga, John Porcellino and the DQ Showcase!

Updated December 10, 2004

The February 05 issue of the UTNE READER features an article by Chris Dodge on "underground cartoonist to watch for" which features an extensive write-up on D+Q cartoonist Anders Nilsen and DQ Showcase #2 contributor Jeffrey Brown and lists Kevin Huizenga (Or Else), John Porcellino (Perfect Example -Fall 2005) as well as DQ Showcase 3 contributor Sammy Harkam as more artist to know about!
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Kevin Huizenga
Anders Nilsen

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Or Else #1

  D+Q Showcase 2 Reviewed in Booklist!

Updated September 16, 2004

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Two
Flagg, Gordon
244 words
1 September 2004
Volume 101; Issue 1; ISSN: 00067385
Copyright (c) 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Brown, Jeffrey and others. Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Two. 2004. 96p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, paper, $14.95 (1-896597-81-5). 741.5.

The second volume of alternative-comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly's Showcase series, which features a few up-and-coming talents at a time, demonstrates an international perspective. Finland's Pentti Otsamo depicts a young boy's attempts to make friends after a move to a new town, juxtaposing his failing efforts with the struggles to reach out of an equally alienated adult neighbor. Dutch artist Erik De Graaf offers an autobiographical tale of a visit to his grandparents' rural home, where he learned the fine distinction between pets and food. Chicagoan Jeffrey Brown progresses beyond his usual self-lacerating, navel-gazing relationship stories with a skewed murder mystery drawn in the same disarmingly offhand style that distinguishes Clumsy (2002) and Unlikely [BKL O 1 03]. Otsamo's and De Graaf's illustrations are slicker than Brown's but equally simple, and all three artists' unadorned styles, enhanced by the effective use of duotones, mask subtle storytelling. Their skill with sensitive subject matter and the universality of their concerns should make many eager for more of their work. -Gordon Flagg

Brown, Jeffrey and others. Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: Book Two. 2004. 96p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, paper, $14.95 (1-896597-81-5). 741.5.

Copyright Booklist Publications Sep 1, 2004

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Sammy Harkham & Martin Cendreda In the LA Times

Updated September 16, 2004

Cartoonists from D+Q Showcase #3 (Summer 05) Sammy Harkaham and D+Q Showcase #4 (Early 06) are featured in the Los Angeles Times. A 3,000 word article on the LA comics scene.

Calendar Weekend; Calendar Desk
Cover Story; Cartoonists' network; L.A., the alternative city on the alt-comics scene, is drawing new talent in a big way.
Susan Carpenter
Times Staff Writer
2,926 words
16 September 2004
Los Angeles Times
Home Edition
Copyright 2004 The Los Angeles Times

Meltdown COMICS is a cartoon jungle. Take a right, and an endless supply of caped crusaders jumps at you from the shelves. Take a left, and it's manga, the ambiguously gendered protagonists giving big-eyed stares from the covers of "Psychic Academy" and "Cyborg 009." But if you dodge the bin of Ugly Dolls inside the door, head straight, then take a hard left at the car-sized bins labeled "DC" and "Marvel," you'll find a goldmine of "alternatives" taking comic books to places they've never been before.

That's where you'll find Johnny Ryan's "Angry Youth Comix," an over-the-top, off-color series populated with insidious men and dopey women. It's where you'll find Dame Darcy's "Meat Cake" gothic fairy tales. And, of course, "Love and Rockets," the long-running series of barrio tales penned by local legends the Hernandez Brothers.

Meltdown's back 40 is also home to the hip-hop street smarts of "MadTwiinz" Mike and Mark Davis, the tear-jerker tales of Jordan Crane, the innocent gag panels of Martin Cendreda, the sketchbook stylings of Souther Salazar, the minimalist storytelling of Sammy Harkham and fine art cartoons from Ron Rege Jr.

What do these artists have in common? Virtually nothing. But they're all pushing the medium in style, story and content. And they're all in L.A., which has become one of the most vibrant, varied and thriving alternative comic scenes in the country -- albeit very quietly.

"It's always Art Spiegelman -- New York. Or Fantagraphics -- Seattle. L.A.'s just overlooked," says Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, co-owner of Meltdown on Sunset Boulevard. "Maybe it's because everybody thinks of Melrose or Rodeo Drive or beach bunnies in Venice. Maybe it's because the film industry is so flashy.

"Unless you're a savvy and knowledgeable comic book buyer, you would not know all these artists are in L.A.," he says. "You'd think they were in Rhode Island somewhere or a forest or Chicago in some old building, but they're out here throughout Los Angeles in different areas trying to make ends meet."

L.A. isn't a cartoonist hub, like Seattle in the early '90s or Boston a few years later. It isn't a scene in the sense that all of the artists go to the same parties or live in a shared house. More than anything, it's a coincidence that so many talented underground cartoonists have landed here at the same time.

Some have followed wives or girlfriends. Others were born and raised in L.A. or went to school here. Some have Hollywood aspirations. Regardless of their motives, one thing is certain: The confluence of talent in L.A. has yielded remarkable results: story lines that range from autobiographical explorations of the mundane to out-of-this-world adventures, with drawing styles that can be minimalist or outrageously jampacked, in books that can be slick, inches-thick anthologies or hand-assembled miniatures that fit in the palm of a hand.

The variety of L.A.-based works reflects a larger renaissance nationwide. "It's definitely a golden age right now," says Eric Reynolds, an editor with alt-comic publisher Fantagraphics. "There was the underground in the late '60s, which was largely about taboo busting, then the independent comics movement in the early '80s that was kick-started by 'Love and Rockets' and R. Crumb's 'Weirdo' and Art Spiegelman's 'Raw.' Now we're in this third wave where you have a generation brought up on that stuff, and they're aiming higher.

"In alternative comics, you have all different types of subject matter in terms of fiction and nonfiction and comedy and drama and satire and more abstract experimentation," Reynolds says. "There's enough out there now that I could ask anyone what kind of books you like and probably have something decent to recommend with comics."

Anyone in alternative comics will tell you: If you want to make money, cartooning isn't the way to do it. The amount of time it takes to draw and write the dozens of panels that tell the story doesn't even translate into minimum wage for most artists. Which makes it all the more surprising that so many choose to pursue to it.

"That's what's cool about the people who do it. You know they're in it because they believe in it as an art form," says Salazar, 26, an artist who's a bit of a vanguard for an emerging movement in comics that's less driven by panels (or stories) and more sketchbook-based. "I think of it like the Wild West."

The Eagle Rock studio where Salazar works with his girlfriend and sometime collaborator, Saelee Oh, is a hodgepodge of fine and folk arts. An enormous self-portrait of Oh hangs next to a framed thrift-shop painting. Dozens of collaborative, homemade comics -- some with hand-painted covers, others with bindings done on a sewing machine -- clutter a desk; unassembled pieces of another are stacked on the floor. The Rapid 100 Electronic stapler Salazar introduces as his "pride and joy" takes up a corner, penned in by other tricks of the trade: a pencil sharpener, cutting board, sketch paper.

"Our comics are more spontaneous and fun," says Salazar, a pencil tucked behind his ear. "We try to make it where the accidents are part of it."

Salazar and Oh's collaborations could be considered art objects as much as they're cartoons. Their "Peanut Butter & Jelly" mini comic series is simply a photocopied version of the sketchbook Salazar carries in his back pocket for co-doodling whenever he and Oh feel inspired. Between the drawing and assembly, the 2-by-4-inch "PBJ" books take countless hours to make, but Salazar and Oh, like so many other alt-comic artists on the rise, sell them for next to nothing at shops such as Meltdown in Hollywood, Hi De Ho in Santa Monica and Giant Robot on Sawtelle Boulevard in L.A., and trade them for free with other cartoonists at comic book conventions.

That's how up-and-comer Martin Cendreda found a publisher for "Dang!," a series of stories involving an endlessly harassed pup named Herbert Hound and a pair of mischievous street urchins known as the Lil' Orphans. During last year's Comic-Con convention in San Diego, Cendreda handed out black-and-white, photocopied-and-stapled booklets to various publishers and was picked up by Georgia-based Top Shelf, which put out a four-color pamphlet version of his comic earlier this year. That, in turn, has won him a spot in an upcoming volume of "Drawn & Quarterly Showcase," a well-respected, Montreal-based anthology featuring promising new talent.

For years, that talent seemed to be coming from everywhere but L.A. New York, Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco have regularly spawned top artists. For years, the Hernandez Brothers were the lone alt-comic outpost in L.A., but that is finally changing.

"It's bizarrely huge right now. Through odd circumstances, there's been a profusion of cartoonists in this city, and that fact is feeding on itself and it's kind of making it a pretty great place to be right now," says Jordan Crane, a cartoonist who's helped to make silk-screened covers a sort of standard in modern-day mini comics.

In the late '90s, Crane was part of a thriving Boston scene that put a fine-art spin on comics. A Southern California native, he followed his wife to Boston for school, then trailed her back to Central L.A. because of her new job.

Driven by a love of print, the tactile appeal of laying pigment on paper and a do-it-yourself attitude that rejected mainstream publishing approval and the impersonality of mass-produced glossies, Crane also provided a ramp for unsung talent in a series of comics anthologies called "NON."

He published his first in 1997. His latest, "NON No. 5," came out in 2001 with a silk-screened, die-cut cover and square, perfect binding -- a radical contrast to the glossy pamphlets most people think of as comics.

"That was my intention: To make this thing that presented itself in a way that a lot of people would want to pick it up and accept it and thereby engage with the work, which is work that doesn't necessarily look like anything they had liked before," Crane says. His happy-go-lucky speaking manner stands in stark contrast to the heart-wrenching content of his cartoons -- stories like "Keeping Two," about a couple who lose their child, or "Col-Dee," about a single mother struggling to make ends meet.

When Crane started publishing "NON," he says, "There was a ridiculous excess of amazing comics. I was looking at 10 different artists who'd never had their work printed on an offset press."

These days there seem to be more outlets. For the last few years, local CalArts grad and cartoonist Sammy Harkham has been publishing a critically acclaimed, "NON"-like anthology called "Kramer's Ergot." Local counterculture magazines Arthur and Giant have regularly published strips and illustrations from local cartoonists. And Dave Eggers' McSweeney's magazine recently published a comics anthology curated by alt-comics bigwig Chris Ware; among its offerings was a mini comic about a Palestinian suicide bomber from Ron Rege Jr., who recently moved from Rhode Island to L.A. to be with his girlfriend, who works in the entertainment industry. More and more alternative comics are showing up as graphic novels on the shelves of mainstream bookstores. And, increasingly, they're being separated from books and produced as free-standing prints that are shown in art galleries. A few, like "Ghost World," released in 2000, and the Dan Clowes' follow-up "Art School Confidential," filmed this year, are squeaking through the Hollywood machine into movie theaters.

All the while, Meltdown and other comic stores' alternative sections are being cruised by development scouts for Nickelodeon, Sony, Miramax, New Line and Warner Bros. Some cartoonists' comics and characters are picked up and turned into animated TV shows, such as Johnen Vasquez's "Invader Zim"; others are recruited to work on existing shows such as "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Even ad agencies are bringing them to the masses. Rege is working on a campaign for Tylenol. Salazar did a print ad for Moviefone; it was based on a character in a mini comic that an advertising exec happened upon in a small Portland, Ore., bookstore.

"Most people think, 'Oh, he has a comic book. He must be raking in the dough,' " says Johnny Ryan, the creator of "Angry Youth Comix."

"It's not like that at all. As far as alternative comics go, it's almost like the comic is sort of just a business card to get you other gigs."

Like most cartoonists, Ryan would prefer to make his living off comics alone, but in the unlikely event of that happening, he'll settle for paying the bills with his freelance work for Nickelodeon and other magazines, such as Vice.

"There's a number of really great cartoonists in L.A. right on that verge of having a much larger audience," says Reynolds of Fantagraphics, which publishes titles by a number of local artists, including the Hernandez Brothers, Steven Weissman, Tony Millionaire, Dame Darcy and Ryan. "They just need to get more work under their belt."



L.A.'s hottest names in comics

It's not a bird! It's not a plane! It's alternative comics. Following are some of the top contributors to the L.A. scene:


Martin Cendreda

Age: 32

Why in L.A.? City native.

Calling card: "Dang!" -- whimsical mini comics and comic books following Herbert Hound and a pair of mischievous street urchins.

Next: A sketchbook published by Giant Robot; a strip for the upcoming comics anthology "Strip America;" more "Dang!" minis; a contribution to the upcoming "Drawn & Quarterly Showcase, Vol. 3."


Jordan Crane

Age: 31

Why in L.A.? City native.

Calling card: "Keeping Two," a heartbreaking series about the trials and tribulations of coupled life.

Next: "The Clouds Above," the continuing adventures of a little boy named Simon and his pet cat Jack; "Imperial," a compilation featuring a 16-page story, eight pages of serialized material for "Keeping Two."


Dame Darcy

Age: 33

Why in L.A.? To pursue film, music, animation.

Calling card: "Meat Cake," the neo-Victorian horror/humor/romance fairy tale series involving Effluvia the Mermaid, Igpay the Pig-Latin pig and other assorted characters.

Next: "Gasoline," a post-apocalyptic graphic novel (and screenplay) about an alternate present -- if nuclear war had happened in the '80s; illustrations for Putnam Penguin's graphic novel version of the Charlotte Bronte classic "Jane Eyre."


Sammy Harkham

Age: 24

Why in L.A.? City native.

Calling card: "Poor Sailor," an epic tale of love and loss; "Kramer's Ergot" anthologies of up-and-coming talent -- some local, some not.

Next: "Kramer's Ergot No. 5"; the new comic book series "Crickets;" "Somersaulting" in "Drawn & Quarterly Showcase, Vol. 3"; a contribution to the upcoming Fantagraphics comics anthology "Mome."


Jaime Hernandez

Age: 44

Why in L.A.? City native.

Calling card: "Love and Rockets," the long-running series of SoCal barrio tales that helped kick-start alt comics in the early '80s.

Next: More "Love and Rockets"; "Locas," a 725-page compilation of Hernandez's stories.


MadTwiinz, a.k.a. Mark and Mike Davis

Age: 28

Why in L.A.? Animation.

Calling card: Blokhedz, a hip-hop series following 17-year-old rapper Blak.

Next: Blokhedz sequels and prequels


Tony Millionaire

Age: 48

Why in L.A.? His wife is an actress.

Calling card: "Maakies," a weekly strip that runs in the LA Weekly, Village Voice and 10 other papers.

Next: "That Darn Yarn," a children's book about a sock monkey who tumbles down the stairs and comes unraveled; "Struwwel Maakies," a third collection of his weekly strip.


John Pham

Age: 29

Why in L.A.? City native.

Calling card: "Sublife Sketchbook" compilation, a mix of sketches and panel comics.

Next: Debut of his "Substitute Life"; a contribution to the upcoming Fantagraphics anthology "Mome"; a collection of his early work, "Epoxy."


Ron Rege Jr.

Age: 34

Why in L.A.? His girlfriend works in the entertainment industry.

Calling card: Suicide bomber mini comic ("She Sometimes ... ") included in the recent McSweeney's No. 13 comics anthology; "Yeast Hoist" comic compilation.

Next: A second "Yeast Hoist" book; various collections of cartoons he's drawn for magazines; Tylenol ad campaign.


Johnny Ryan

Age: 33

Why in L.A.? Animation aspirations, the weather.

Calling card: "Angry Youth Comix," an off-color, over-the-top series.

Next: "What Are You Lookin' At?" a collection of the first five "Angry Youth Comix"; "Blecky Yuckerella," a collection of his weekly strip of the same name; "Shouldn't You be Working," a collection of sketchbook work.


Souther Salazar / Saelee Oh

Age: 26 / 22

Why in L.A.? Art Center College of Design graduates.

Calling card: "The Monster That Ate Stars" mini comic; "Winks & Whispers," a Valentine's Day mini comic.

Next: Gallery show at Giant Robot on Nov. 20; "Dragonfly," his first non-handmade book.


Steven Weissman

Age: 36

Why in L.A.? "Intense media exposure."

Calling card: The trilogy of books compiling his darkly humorous child adventure series, "Yikes."

Next: The book "Poopy," about a remarkable skunk who changes the life of everyone he meets.


'Toon time

Graphic novels and comic book compilations have found their way to most major bookstores, but if you're looking for alternative comics and lesser-known, on-the-rise cartoonists, these specialty shops can point you in the right direction:

Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 478-1819

Golden Apple Comics, 7711 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 658-6047

Hi De Ho Comics and Books, 525 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 394-2820

Meltdown Comics and Collectibles, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (323) 851-7283

PHOTO: "Sublife Sketchbook" by John Pham;PHOTO: RIGHT AT HOME: L.A. native Jordan Crane has provided a platform for unsung talent in a series of comics anthologies called "NON" and has helped make silk-screen covers more prevalent in mini comics.;PHOTO: BUZZ: Sammy Harkham's "Kramer's Ergot" has won acclaim.;PHOTOGRAPHER: Photographs by Annie Wells Los Angeles Times;PHOTO: "When We Were Very Maakies" by Tony Millionaire;PHOTO: "The Monster That Ate Stars" by Souther Salazar;PHOTO: "Blockhedz" by Madtwiinz;PHOTOGRAPHER: Photographs by Annie Wells Los Angeles Times;PHOTO: EXPANSION: Comics by Ron Rege Jr. hint of fine art drawings. Rege is branching his comics out into advertising.;PHOTO: TRANSPLANT: Ron Rege Jr. came to L.A. with his girlfriend.;PHOTO: AT HOME: "Epoxy" artist John Pham is an L.A. native.;PHOTO: Martin Cendreda created "Dang!";PHOTOGRAPHER: Annie Wells Los Angeles Times;PHOTO: TWICE: Twins Mark, left, and Mike Davis created MadTwiinz.;PHOTOGRAPHER: Annie Wells Los Angeles Times;PHOTO: "There's been a profusion of cartoonists in this city," says L.A..'s Jordan Crane, who captured the alt-comic scene in ink.;PHOTOGRAPHER: Jordan Crane


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  Booklist Reviews DQ Showcase #1

Updated April 19, 2004

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: v. 1
Flagg, Gordon
250 words
1 November 2003
Volume 100; Issue 5; ISSN: 00067385
Copyright (c) 2003 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Huizenga, Kevin and Robel, Nicolas. Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: v. 1. 2003. 96p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly; dist. by Chronicle, paper, $14.95 (1-896597-62-9). 741.5.

Alternative-comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly's flagship title has been the annual bearing its name and spotlighting leading alternative-comics artists throughout the world. Now the company launches a more modest companion to showcase up-and-coming talents. The inaugural volume features two young artists presenting dissimilar but complementary stories. Mid-westerner Huizenga's two features depict suburbanite family man Glenn Ganges, whose mundane concerns spin off into subtly sinister fantasies; in a yarn loosely based on an Italian folktale, Ganges, in an effort to bring about his wife's pregnancy, undertakes a surreal quest to pluck a feather from a monstrous ogre. Whereas Huizenga's cartoony style derives from classic comic strips, the Swiss Rebel's work is artier. While inspecting a vacant apartment with her insensitive boyfriend, his vaguely Munchian protagonist is confronted by harrowing visions from her past, which Robel presents in a stark, bizarre style. Both these newcomers don't just show potential but talent that is already well developed. They have plenty to say and the chops to express it. -Gordon Flagg

Huizenga, Kevin and Robel, Nicolas. Drawn & Quarterly Showcase: v. 1. 2003. 96p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly; dist. by Chronicle, paper, $14.95 (1-896597-62-9). 741.5.

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PW Reviews D+Q's Showcase: Book One

Updated December 9, 2003

From the 12/8 issue of Publishers Weekly:

Kevin Huizenga and Nicolas Robel . Drawn and Quarterly, $14.95 paper (96p) ISBN 1-896597-62-9

For this first volume in Drawn and Quarterly's ambitious program to spotlight young talent in a long-form showcase, the artists each use a different two-color palette and tell stories linked by their emphasis on the visual poetry possible in comics. Huizenga's three interlocking short stories focus on the daydreams of Glenn Ganges, a man deeply preoccupied with conceiving a child with his wife. In a Midwestern suburban landscape, Ganges wonders about refugees from the Sudan and pesky birds and goes on a quest for an ogre's feathers. Huizenga uses a clean cartoon style related to the delineations of Gasoline Alley , combining articulate ideas about love and worry with humorous asides and a knack for moments of stunning visual beauty, as when he devotes a page to the flight of a flock of birds. Robel's half is a single surreal story done in hues of green and red. More vague and angst-ridden than Huizenga's work, it follows a woman through a mansion and into her dreams and nightmares, blurring the line between life and fantasy. It's an entertaining romp, visually arresting, and suggests future promise for Robel, even if it doesn't pack quite the punch of Huizenga's more direct and fully formed work. The anthology is a successful idea and important for comics' future. Giving young artists space to stretch out and develop in book form is necessary, and by taking a chance on new talent, Drawn and Quarterly again proves it's one of today's most adventurous and important comics publishers. (Oct.)


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  The List reviews D+Q Showcase Book One

Updated November 18, 2003

The weely gossy for Edinburgh and Glasgow "The List" reviews the D+Q Showcase; Book One stating "this promising first outing for new talent under the D+Q wing contains the work of two yongs bucks who share fascination for the suburban and the mundane."

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Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #1 premieres this Friday at the SPX.

Updated September 4, 2003

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #1 premieres this Friday, September 5th and Saturday, September 6th at the SPX in Bethesda, Maryland. Kevin Huizenga, who has a three-part story in the first half of the book, will be signing at the D+Q tables on Friday and Saturday.

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