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R. SIKORYAK collaborates with GQ on the satirical series The Midterm Funny Pages

Updated September 22, 2010

Midterm elections spoofed in GQ 'Funny Pages'

by Michael Cavna
Washington Post
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Political pop quiz: What nationally known colorful character with Midwestern roots gives off a tint even more orange than ultra-tanned Ohio Republican John Boehner?

If you said Garfield the cat, congratulations: Your thinking is right in line -- creatively if not ideologically -- with the campaign satirists at GQ magazine.

The idea to parody the electoral action through comic-strip panels this month was that of the Massachusetts-schooled Scott Brown. No, not that Scott Brown. This Scott Brown, New York magazine's drama critic by day, relished this year's political theater, so he contacted his writing partner, Anthony King -- who by night is artistic director of the improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. As they bounced comic-strip spoofs off each other, it all began to click.

"I threw it out there hoping it would work," says Brown, who has also written for Entertainment Weekly and Wired. "I didn't know if maybe these are two great tastes that don't taste great together."

Brown and King, both in their mid-30s, say their humor shamelessly strip-mines the pop-culture reference points of their shared childhoods. (They met in high school in Durham, N.C.) Which is how they arrived at sending up "Garfield" and "Peanuts" and even the untouchable "Calvin and Hobbes" for the magazine.

Brown and King self-identify as "flaming moderates" -- though they say the state of polarized politics has doused some of those flames.

Working with artist R. Sikoryak, Brown and King created nine parody comics for the GQ feature, which is titled "The Midterm Funny Pages." They include:

-- A Peanuts spoof, "It's a Tough Election, Harry Reid," in which Nevada challenger Sharron Angle holds the political football for Sen. Reid.

-- A "B.C." sendup titled "S.C.," in which South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, Senate candidate Alvin Greene and Sen. Lindsey Graham stump from prehistoric perches.

-- "Rand Paul and Hobbes," in which Kentucky would-be senator Paul (as Calvin) plots to found his own country.

-- And the afore-referenced "Boehner," in which the congressman gets a big, wet tongue wag from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele as "Garfield's" drooling dog.

"The parallel of the relationship with Michael Steele as Odie was definitely amazing," King says. "That one came to us in an orange flash."

Brown and King said almost everything they tried worked -- "We rarely self-edit," King kids -- except for "The Far Side" (they say the strip exists too much on its own aesthetic plane) and the soap strip "Mary Worth." (Confesses King: "We tried hard, but Mary Worth, she defeated us.")

The team then turned over the art duties to Sikoryak, the creator of "Masterpiece Comics," who is himself a master of co-opting other cartoonists' styles.

"I enjoy doing political stuff," says Sikoryak, 45, who has also drawn for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." So the New Jersey-based artist scoured digital archives of the comics, striving to be as faithful to each as possible. "Rather than just say, well, this strip has a scratchy line and this one has a smooth brush line, I found specific poses I could redraw and import. . . . I pulled from and slavishly copied the shading and details for [comic] situations that the original strips would never have."

His work, which took several weeks to complete, included an image of a prone, playing-dead Marmaduke -- who in GQ becomes "Blanche Lincoln is Pharmaduke," the "middle-of-the-road" dog having been fender-struck by "Arkansas voters."

Sikoryak -- whose "Masterpiece Comics" won an Ignatz Award at this month's Small Press Expo in Bethesda -- says Brown and King were masterly at replicating the beats and rhythms of the original strips. The three creators cite influences ranging from Mad magazine to "Bloom County" when it comes to satire in comics form.

So, what do the guys plan to satirize next for GQ?

"We've got a Men of the Year project coming up as a year-ender," King says. Brown quickly adds: "We probably shouldn't say much more than that."
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Featured artist

R. Sikoryak


  MARKET DAY, BLACK BLIZZARD, and MASTERPIECE COMICS on the Willamette Week favorites list

Updated April 27, 2010

Collect Them All!
Our six favorite books you’ll find at the Stumptown Comics Festival.

by Casey Jarman and Ben Waterhouse

Think of your favorite comic book or graphic novel. Got it? Now think of the book’s creator(s)—what do they look like?

Unless you’re a comics-industry insider—or the book in question is an autobiographical one—that second question is a little harder to answer. And comic-book creators generally like it that way: Unlike actors or musicians, they work in isolation, and their art gets to speak for itself.

Major conventions, then, can be awkward affairs. But the Stumptown Comics Fest is special. In its intimate space, Stumptown feels more like a farmers market for artists than those ugly events we disparagingly call “Cons.” While special guests (the great Paul Pope and Portland favorite Craig Thompson among them this year) abound, it’s a low-key environment that largely keeps the spotlight off of big-name guests and right where it belongs—on the books.

To honor that workmanlike spirit, we’ve chosen six recent works we’re really excited about. Some of the creators—those marked with the icon—will be on hand at Stumptown. Stay cool about that.

Market Day, James Sturm
A lyrical vignette that feels like Samuel Beckett by way of Hergé, Market Day follows an introspective rug-maker who’s trying to balance dreams and responsibility. Sturm’s bulbous, cartoony lines combine with the book’s muted, sepia-toned color scheme to give it a real sense of mood, and its story—while abbreviated—is strong and relatable.

The 120 Days of Simon, Simon Gärdenfors
The most visually striking in Portland/Georgia imprint Top Shelf’s recent Swedish Invasion series, The 120 Days of Simon follows the artist as he travels throughout his home country. The book’s two-panel page design and deceptively cute South Park-ian artwork make it an easy read, and Gärdenfors—kind of an asshole—proves adept at getting into major trouble wherever he goes.

Black Blizzard, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
If you read Tatsumi’s sprawling, 856-page memoir, A Drifting Life, you’ll remember Black Blizzard as one of his early masterpieces. Amazingly, the Hitchcockian 1956 murder mystery novel holds up—Tatsumi’s protagonists—two runaway convicts attached via handcuffs—may be the focus, but it’s his sprawling backgrounds (of snowstorms, cityscapes and circus tents) that really steal the show.

Stumptown, Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth
An easy sell: Portlanders Rucka (writer of Whiteout) and Southworth’s crime drama follows a gambling-addicted P.I. named Dex as she hunts down criminal scum in picturesque Portland locales, from Old Town to the St. Johns Bridge, rendered with heavy shadows and intense splashes of color.

Mercury, Hope Larson
Larson is one of the most innovative artists working in comics today, but she doesn’t flaunt it: At first glance, her stories of adolescent girls confronting change—she definitely has a theme—are engagingly drawn and pleasing to read. But upon closer examination, her art astonishes—every frame appears to be in motion, right down to the speech bubbles, which seem to fly rather than float. Her new novel tells parallel stories of girls in Nova Scotia in 1859 and the present day, with a spooky supernatural touch.

Masterpiece Comics, R. Sikoryak
One of the weirder projects we’ve read recently, this collection by frequent New Yorker cover illustrator Sikoryak mashes up classic literature and classic comics to delightful effect: Crime and Punishment as a Batman adventure; Metamorphosis as Peanuts; Candide as Ziggy; Waiting for Godot as Beavis and Butt-head. This book’s catnip for comics-loving English majors.

click here to read more

Featured artists

James Sturm
Yoshihiro Tatsumi
R. Sikoryak

           Featured products

Masterpiece Comics
Market Day

SETH, SIKORYAK, WRIGHT, TATSUMI, BELL, and BROWN make the Torontoist 2009 best of list

Updated February 9, 2010

Warning: Graphic Content

by Dave Howard

It’s late December. You haven’t done your holiday shopping and you’re surrounded by happy loved ones you’d like to indulge with a gift. You’d like to get them a book they would really enjoy but probably never think to buy for themselves. A little surprise that is indulgent, luxurious and even a little decadent. A gift that gives them permission to spend a little time on themselves, and when they’re done, have the option to re-gift…I mean…share with others.

You’re in luck. You’ve just fallen into the world of the graphic novel. The form’s non-verbal, dreamlike-yet-self-aware text most closely imitates cognition, and can hold moments indefinitely – ready to be revisited again and again. Lovely.

But which ones to choose? And for whom? Fortunately for you, 2009 was a stellar year for comics publishing. Let’s start.

Absolutely Brilliant Graphic Novels To Impress The Hell Out Of People

George Sprott 1894-1975, Seth

This is certainly the best book yet in the internationally revered Canadian artist’s career – and that’s saying a lot. Collecting Seth’s existential strip, which appeared in New York Times Magazine in 2006, George Sprott is a serendipitous depiction of a small town celebrity filled with Canadiana both sad and unsentimental, accessible and far-reaching, a fun light read and a poignant tolling of the bell. It is also a simply beautiful book: oversized, hard cover with silver foil lettering, colour glossy pages, and gorgeously designed endpapers.

The Book of Genesis, Illustrated by Robert Crumb

Probably the most anticipated book to come out this year, the irreverent, controversial, neurotic grandfather of underground comix has given the first book of the Bible an unexpectedly straight treatment with his mighty pen – and to the surprise of all, it really works. It turns out the Bible has enough racy story material that can be told without embellishment and still satisfy the aesthetic of an artist credited for defining the comics underground.

Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli

The author of probably the second most anticipated book for this year, David Mazzucchelli is half the genius behind Batman: Year One, one of the key books to revive the Batman franchise and the basis for the Batman Begins movie. Mazzucchelli dropped out of superhero comics and famously re-emerged to translate Paul Auster’s City of Glass into comics, garnering widespread critical and literary acclaim just before he disappeared from comics for a while. Asterios Polyp marks his long-awaited return. An examination of meaning and identity, it is simply a beautiful book, rich in formalist comics language experimentation that would make even Scott McCloud blush.

Luba, Gilbert Hernandez

Hernandez is one of the brothers behind Love and Rockets, the complex, beautifully drawn and multi-storied anti-middle-American soap opera rooted in Latino California. Luba is one of the vast cast’s matriarchs – a force to be reckoned with – and this book collects her stories in one enormous volume. Very much worth it.

Masterpiece Comics, R. Sikoryak

An artist who can trace his roots way back to Art Spiegelman’s RAW, R. Sikoryak has achieved the near impossible: mashed famous literary works with superhero tropes to create an enormously clever reductionist viewpoing that makes us re-examine our feelings of both genres. With mock covers like “Action Camus,” the work is laugh-out-loud funny.

Gifts For Your Sometimes Angst-Ridden Young Adult/Older Teen

Skim, Mariko Tamaki/Jillian Tamaki

This is a beautifully drawn piece of work that I highly recommend, told through the eyes of Skim, a teenage girl struggling with her own identity as she works though the rituals and limitations imposed upon her by her friends and peers and herself. Drawn in a lovely familiar pencil line that feels like it could have come out of a diary.

The Complete Essex County, Jeff Lemire

Winner of many awards, including a 2008 Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist and a 2008 Doug Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent, Lemire pays homage to his southern Ontario upbringing with this critically acclaimed farmland tale. Over the years a community is forced to deal with a damaging and long-standing deception – and to try to heal from the fall out.

GoGo Monster, Taiyo Matsumoto

Originally released in Japanese, this much-lauded story dabbles in magic realism – a new student sees ‘monsters’ wherever he goes and his new friend must decide if they are a figment of his imagination or a real force to be reckoned with. Emotionally resonate, sometimes sinister, and ultimately adventurous.

Far Arden, Kevin Cannon

A great deal of fun, Far Arden is Cannon’s tale of a noble young man who sails into the Canadian Artic to find the utopian tropical island of Far Arden, only to be thwarted by one after another ridiculously impossible set of people and circumstances. Clever and funny – very much like life, yes?

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1-5, Bryan Lee O’Malley

Young Canadian cartoonist star and Doug Wright Award winner Brian Lee O’Malley continues to unravel his charming, autobiographical coming-of-age story set in Toronto. Addictive and very likeable – also soon to be a major motion picture, shot in Toronto.

True Loves, Jason Turner and Manien Bothma

Set in Vancouver, True Loves is a light-hearted romantic comedy about True and Zander, by one of my favourite underground Canadian cartoonists.

The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

This now famous two-book collection of a girl’s emigration from Iran to France to escape the oncoming cultural revolution has been repackaged into one set. A not-atypical Middle-East-meets-West conundrum showing a family’s high expectation and a girl’s rebellion as she is lured by a once-alien culture she has been sent into for her protection.

Gifts To Intimidate the Budding Cartoonist

The Collected Doug Wright 1, Doug Wright

One of the Canadian grandfathers of the cartoon form in the 1950s and 60’s, Doug Wright was once a household name. Now gone, he is the person behind the prestigious cartoonist award that bears his name. Drawn and Quarterly has done well to collect this master’s work. Lynda Johnson says “I don’t think I’d have had the basics needed to do a syndicated comic strip had it not been for Doug Wright.”

Yoshihro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life

Tatsumi is well regarded as the grandfather of alternative manga for adults – the precursor to the “graphic novel.” This enormous tome is a fantastic autobiography that has taken 11 years to create. It is indulgent and illuminating, both in terms of his life, and in terms of Japanese comics history.

The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, Helen McCarthy

The Japanese creator of Astro Boy has had an enormous impact on manga and comics the world over. His life and work are collected here in this lavish biography for new readers and those familiar with his work.

Hot Potatoe: Fine Ahtwerks, Marc Bell

Canada’s own Marc Bell has earned a reputation for groundbreaking work, effectively blurring the distinctions between art and craft, of unique art object and print piece, of comics and fine art, of associative and linear narrative. Here his labyrinth-like creations are bound in a single beautiful book.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (Calvin & Hobbes) (v. 1, 2, 3), Bill Watterson

This box set is the last appearance of Watterson’s comic and it contains the whole strip in it’s entirety. For those who are fans of the strip, this is a real find. You can cast off all you dog-eared, incomplete collections of the strip, and keep this one on the bookshelf. Finally.

Sundays with Walt and Skeezix, Frank O. King (Author), Peter Maresca (Editor), Chris Ware (Editor)

This oversized book reproduces the legendary Sunday pages of Frank King’s “Gasoline Alley” in it’s heyday, the 1920s and 30’s, in their original newspaper broadsheet size. Certainly the book and art are absolutely beautiful – large and lush – but they are difficult to handle. I was worried the book would become ruined or worse – forgotten. To my surprise, it became one of my eight-year-old’s favourite books: she lays it out on the floor and pores over every corner. Now what parent in the world would stop their child from reading?

Walt and Skeezix: Books One, Two and Three

These are beautiful and well crafted hardcover editions of Frank King’s “Gasoline Alley.” After reading a few strips you realize they are more than simple jokes or gags, they create a complete quiet, poetic world, against which you may see reflections of your own. These are when the dailies were at their height.

Gifts For Impressionable Kids

BONE, Jeff Smith

Every kid I’ve known who started to read this series could not put it down. Now colourized beautifully, the book is at times slapstick, funny, poetic, poignant – it is the rare breed of comic that is not full of superhero power fantasies that still holds your seven- to eleven-year-old’s attention. Oh, and it’s Canadian.

The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics, Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly

These are the classics from the masters of the 1940s and 50’s – those who laid the brickwork down for the graphic space we now inhabit. Chosen by New Yorker art director Mouly and her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband, the legendary Art Spiegelman, in one book you have the best of the best of the cream of the crop, of the silliest, funniest, craziest kids’ comics ever made from the Golden Age.

Jellaby, Kean Soo

When Toronto’s Kean Soo showed preliminary samples from Jellaby around, the work was quickly snatched up by Disney’s graphic novel imprint Hyperion, and for good reason. I often read comics and books to my daughter, and this is one of the few she really took to and really wanted to read again and again. Try it out.

Historical, Journalistic, Biographical

Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde pretty much defined comics journalism as a complete, legitimate, and independent genre. His latest work looks at the history of Gaza and the notorious massacre in 1955 of 111 Palestinians by Israeli soldiers. By placing this in context to events since then, we are reminded how precious life is, and how easy it is for people to become statistics.

Drop-In, Dave Lapp

Dave Lapp splits his time between teaching art to kids in drop-in centres in some of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Toronto and relentlessly pursuing his dream to create great comics stories. With Drop-In, Lapp has found a way to combine the two: a series of unflinching short stories unfettered by judgment or useless commentary about some of the most damaged people living in some of the worst situations you can imagine. You think you know Toronto? Not for the light hearted, but still recommended reading.

Louis Riel, Chester Brown

Chester Brown created this biography of Louis Riel many years ago yet it still shows up on Canadian bestseller lists. Why? Because its the kind of timeless book you can refer to again and again. Consider Canadian history’s treatment of this enigmatic personality, as well as how our government treated an “unwanted” people. Now – compare that treatment to today.
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Featured artists

R. Sikoryak
Doug Wright

           Featured products

George Sprott: (1894-1975)
The Collected Doug Wright Volume One

  The Toronto Star calls MASTERPIECE COMICS "delicious"

Updated January 5, 2010

Beavis and Butthead do Vladimir and Estragon; R. Sikoryak's wacky notion of combining classics and comics works surprisingly well

Jonathan Kuehlein

R. (for Robert) Sikoryak has blended the fine wine with the beer - and the result is delicious.

At first glance, the melding of subjects in Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics (Drawn & Quarterly, 64 pages, $24.95) - some of the finest works literature has to offer are folded into mainstream comic titles and strips - seems simply ludicrous, worthy of only a few titters at the outlandishness of it all.

The likes of Kafka, Voltaire, Dostoyevsky and Wilde are the Bordeaux in this unlikely melange. Newspaper strips such as Garfield, Peanuts, Ziggy and Blondie, plus such comic series as Batman, are the Budweiser.

This may sound like a mess in the making, but it's amazing how well it all goes together.

What makes Sikoryak's fusion succeed is his canny ability to find ideal matches of classics and strips.

"Candiggy," a two-page piece featuring Ziggy in Voltaire's Candide, perfectly captures the acknowledged angst of Tom Wilson's little, bald strip star, while also highlighting the inherent cynicism of the French master's work.

"Good Ol' Gregor Brown," with Charlie Brown starring as a boy transformed into an insect a la Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, also manages to flow together seamlessly, somehow pushing past the initial absurdity to present the most identifiable qualities of both the Peanuts star and tortured salesman Gregor Samsa.

The very best of Masterpiece Comics is "Waiting To Go" starring Mike Judge's Beavis and Butthead as Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In one simple page, Sikoryak absolutely nails the essence of both the timeless play and the snickering cartoon slackers.

Vertigo is pulling out a pair of big guns to get the lead flying on its provocative new crime imprint.

Dark Entries (Vertigo Crime, 216 pages, $24.99), a supernatural mystery set against the twisted world of reality TV, featuring Vertigo mainstay John Constantine, is written by Scottish noir master Ian Rankin. The gritty black-and-white art by Werther Dell'Edera, best known for his work on Vertigo's western, Loveless, fits the mood set by Rankin's Edgar Award-winning Resurrection Men to a T.

Brian Azzarello, who established himself as one of the best writers in comics with his Eisner Award-winning Vertigo series 100 Bullets, pens Filthy Rich (Vertigo Crime, 200 pages, $24.99), a noir that follows a former football star's descent into a seedy world of sex, drugs and violence after becoming personal bodyguard for his rich boss's daughter. Spanish star Victor Santos provides the lush, inky Frank Miller-esque art.

Vertigo Crime promises to keep rolling out the heavy artillery, with upcoming releases from Denise Mina, Scottish author of the popular Paddy Meehan novels; Waterloo native Jon Evans, award-winning writer of Dark Place; and American Jason Starr, an award winner for Twisted City.

Featured artist

R. Sikoryak

           Featured product

Masterpiece Comics

Chicago Tribune recommends MASTERPIECE COMICS

Updated January 5, 2010

Illustrated classics sure to please the Grinchiest

by Christopher Borrelli

For those who plan on giving a classic work of literature as a gift this holiday -- particularly those who have never given a classic -- a word of warning: It's not the selection that's dry -- this year, for instance, you can't go wrong with one of the revamped hard-cover, dust-jacket-free editions of Dickens or Hardy from Penguin, its pattern-stamped covers evocative of the wallpaper in every Merchant-Ivory drawing room ever. It's the reactions, the tight smiles -- often less effusive than you had imagined.

That said, you have options: You could spend the next year resenting that your brother-in-law didn't turn cartwheels when handed a new annotated copy of "Dr. Faustus," or you could rethink your approach, and consider one of the following, each of which, in its own way, rethinks classics themselves.


"Masterpiece Comics"

Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95, 65 pages

Best appreciated by: English majors with a sense of humor; aging devotees of "Classics Illustrated"; students of the fine-art of the mash-up; pop culture cultists.

What it is: Your eyes insist, but this is not a satire of canonical literature, or a series of great works adapted as classic comics by the original artists. This is the work of one man, R. Sikoryak, best known for his New Yorker covers (he did the Buckingham Palace guard shedding a tear after the death of Lady Diana). Thirteen abbreviated classics reinvented as newspaper strips, comic books and, incredibly, in the case of Dante's "Inferno," "Bazooka Joe" wrappers. The joy is not in the irony, which is as mild as the jokes in the originals, but in the clever juxtapositions -- Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" as "Peanuts" ("Get lost, you stupid bug!!!"), "Candide" as "Ziggy," and, the centerpiece, "The Scarlet Letter" as "Little Lulu." Each is a spot on impersonation, with dialogue that, like the book itself, honors both classic literature and cartoonists, revealing something fresh in each.

Gravitas? As thin as it is, yes.

"The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics"

Abrams Comic Arts, $40, 352 pages

Best appreciated by: Precocious, creative kids; old-school comic book collectors; graphic designers; the nostalgic.

What it is: A generous consideration of an overlooked milestone of American childhood -- comics produced exclusively for pre-superhero-smitten adolescents, mostly in the '40s and '50s. Curated by Art Spiegelman ("Maus") and Francoise Mouly (art editor of the New Yorker, and Spiegelman's wife), and well-selected (everything from "Uncle Scrooge" to obscurities such as "Patsy Pancake"), it serves both as a children's book and a revelatory catalog of styles that, a bit later, led to MAD magazine and the underground comix of the 1960s. (Bonus: They even reproduced the sweet, uneven dot-matrix color of vintage titles.)

Gravitas? Not really, but as a loving, unexpected argument for the invention of midcentury kids comics, it's wonderful.

"The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb"

Norton, $24.95, 224 pages

Best appreciated by: Lapsed Catholics; friends who say they plan to read the Bible someday; fans of sex and violence.

What it is: Exactly what Crumb, the godfather of alternative comix and purveyor of very squeamish iconic adult illustrations, has been threatening for years -- a graphic-novel distillation of the first book of the Bible, from Creation to the story of Joseph. The surprise is how affecting it turned out, and how lacking in irony its gorgeous near wood-cut illustrations are. Those expecting cheerful blasphemy will be disappointed Crumb sticks close to the text, condensing in panels what the book takes a doorstop to address. He even gives God a traditional appearance. (Which is to say, God looks like Duane Allman impersonating Santa Claus.)

Gravitas? Nothing but.
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Featured artist

R. Sikoryak

           Featured product

Masterpiece Comics


Updated December 7, 2009

'Masterpiece Comics' by R. Sikoryak

Superman as an existentialist? Batman as a character out of Dostoevsky? Classic novels meet the comics in Sikoryak's work.

by David L. Ulin

In my favorite panel of R. Sikoryak's "Masterpiece Comics" (Drawn & Quarterly: 66 pp., $19.95), Superman -- recast as Meursault, the protagonist of Albert Camus' 1942 novel "The Stranger" -- attacks a priest in his jail cell while crying out: "Don't waste your lousy prayers! You're just as condemned as me!" It takes a perverse kind of genius to re-imagine the Man of Steel as existentialist antihero, but that's the power of Sikoryak's work. A protégé of Art Spiegelman's (with whom he worked for many years on the "commix" magazine RAW), he is an uncanny visual mimic, able to draw in a wide range of styles and to reinvent classic comics imagery.

That's the appeal of "Masterpiece Comics," which juxtaposes classic literature and classic comics with results that are striking and surreal.

In one extended sequence, Raskolnikov is portrayed as Batman -- a parody of both Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and DC's "Detective Comics" that manages to do justice to them both. In "Blonde Eve," Blondie and Dagwood are cast out of the Garden of Eden directly into suburbia; "Good ol' Gregor Brown" frames Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" as a series of Peanuts strips. Never once does Sikoryak slip off the tightrope that he's walking between absurdity and grace. Best of all is "Inferno Joe," in which Dante's "Inferno" plays out over 10 three-frame Bazooka Joe comics, complete with facsimile fortunes and ads.
click here to read more

Featured artist

R. Sikoryak

           Featured product

Masterpiece Comics

Flavorwire recommends MASTERPIECE COMICS for your nonreading friends.

Updated December 7, 2009

10 Awesome Books to Give Your Nonreading Friends

by Toby Warner

If you’re a reader, you know the dilemma. You may love to give and get books, but you’ve got at least a few friends or family members who just aren’t into what you’ve hand-picked and lovingly gift-wrapped for them. Never fear! We present our handy list of eye-candy books for even the toughest crowd.

R. Sikoryak — Masterpiece Comics

Probably best known for his hilarious “Action Camus, Superman of Nihilism” illustrations, R. Sikoryak does cartoon parodies of the treasures of world literature. In this collection from Drawn & Quarterly, you’ll get Charlotte Brontë in the style of Tales from the Crypt, and The Metamorphosis as a Peanuts strip. Good, clean high/low-brow fun for the recovering English major.
click here to read more

Featured artist

R. Sikoryak

           Featured product

Masterpiece Comics

  R.SIKORYAK talks fonts with Balloon Tales

Updated November 23, 2009

Interview with R.Sikoryak

You've probably seen one of R. Sikoryak's vintage comic parodies on The Onion, Nickelodeon Magazine, The Daily Show or on the cover of The New Yorker or Fortune -- and thought at first glance, like I did, that it was the real thing!
Drawn & Quarterly has just released "Masterpiece Comics", a 64-page hardcover collection of Sikoryak's "classic literary works reimagined as classic comics," so it seemed like the perfect time to contact the mysterious R. and find out exactly how he creates his fantastic illustrations, and what role lettering and fonts play in the process. — J.G. Roshell

JG: The first time I saw your work was your dead-on "Lockhorns" and "The Decider" strips for The Daily Show. How did that gig come about, and what's it like working with them?

RS: I was asked to draw a few comics parodies for The Daily Show's America (the Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Most of my previous work was done for magazines and books. From there I was hired to do some cartoons and illustrations for the show.

All the writing is done by the staff, of course, and many of them are big comics fans, so they always get the details right. They're a real pleasure to work for. The deadlines are sometimes overnight, so the pressure is on, especially when they've needed a dozen drawings in 24 hours! But as you can imagine, it's extremely thrilling to see your work on TV after a whirlwind drawing session.

JG: You do a remarkable job capturing the look and feel of vintage comic art. Do you draw on the computer, or with pen and ink like the original artists?

RS: I generally start with doodles in my sketch book. I'll break down the story very loosely with thumbnail drawings, then begin laying out the text and panel boxes with InDesign. Then I print out the inDesign pages on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, and sketch on those printouts or on tracing paper.

JG: So the lettering is part of your page composition from the very beginning?

RS: Yes. I always want to know exactly how much space to reserve for the text before I go too far in planning the drawings for each panel. Even if I'm hand lettering a strip, I'll find (or create) a similar looking font and lay it out with InDesign, so I can determine the spacing I'll need on the final art. This saves an enormous amount of time.

JG: And which phantastically phenomenal fonts do you like to use for this process, hmm...?

RS: A lot of my comics and illustrations use your fonts. The House-Keeper page has the "Rigor Moris" font, and the back cover features "Chatterbox."

JG: Huzzah!

RS: But most of the "Masterpiece" book is either hand lettered or, in a few cases, uses fonts I had made based on specific lettering styles.

JG: What?! Other fonts? PEN LETTERING?!? Sounds like I have some holes to fill in our catalog. Alright, so then what?

RS: When I've revised the sketches sufficiently, I'll scan those, import the text from InDesign, and tweak them in Photoshop using my Wacom tablet. I might repeat this process of refining by hand and by computer several times.

JG: So you combine the look of pen with the flexibility of the computer. Clever! On which side do you end up?

RS: I print out the Photoshopped sketches at approximately 10 x 15 inches, trace them in pencil on bristol board, and then ink with traditional brushes, pens, and ink. Because I often emulate cartoonists of the past, I try to use the same or similar tools as they would to create my finished art.

JG: Is your final lettering done with fonts, or a combination of computer and pen as well?

RS: Sometimes I'll paste the font on the original artwork. Other times I'll trace a font for a more organic look. When I did my Little Nemo parody, it was vital that the lettering was somewhat wonky, to match Winsor McCay's style. In that case I inked with a dip pen, as he did.

And when I need a specific word balloon font, such as for my parodies of the 1950s Batman or Little Lulu, I will draw a full alphabet with a rapidograph or another pen, then scan and tweak the letters in Photoshop.

JG: How about sound effects and titles?

RS: I love hand lettering sound effects, logos, and
story titles, so I generally draw those with rapidographs and dip pens. And if a logo or title is very elaborate, sometimes I'll do an initial layout with a font like "BiffBamBoom", print it out, and then trace and refine it with pencil and pen on bristol board.

JG: And what about color? Wait, let me guess -- you paint with watercolors and cut the separations with rubylith?

RS: I actually used to use zipatone and rubylith! I worked at Raw magazine in the late '80s and '90s, and I learned the old fashioned techniques.
Now, of course, I scan my pages and color them in Photoshop, using a fairly limited palette to emulate old comic books.

JG: Wow, that's quite a process. But the results are worth it -- the book looks fantastic! Thanks for taking time to share your process with us.

RS: You're very welcome!

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Tampa Bay Online deems R.SIKORYAK a "genius"!

Updated November 23, 2009

Twisted genius combines comics, classic

by Kevin Walker

R. Sikoryak, bless his twisted head, is a genius. His "Masterpiece Comics" - some of which are reprinted here in a beautiful coffee-table book - offers example after example of how he has seamlessly mashed up famous comic characters with classic literature.

The book features a half-dozen short comics in which Sikoryak gives a well-known comic character the lead role in a work of classic literature. He also mimics the art style of those who created the comics, from Charles M. Schulz ("Peanuts") to Bob Kane ("Batman"). In short, dude has mad drawing skills, a terrific sense of humor and great taste in books.

For those who know the literature, it's hilarious. If you've never read the classics, these comics give you a quick glimpse at some of the novel's key points.

Russian literature lovers, I dare you not to smile at "Dostoyevsky Comics," in which Batman is cast in the role of Raskolnikov from "Crime and Punishment," a man who struggles with his conscience after committing a senseless murder. His companion is a transvestite who looks quite a bit like Robin, and the woman he murders comes back to haunt him, laughing at his anguish, Joker-style.

Or there's "Action Camus," in which a, ah, super man goes all existential, playing the role of Meursault in Albert Camus' "The Stranger." Sikoryak puts Camus' famous line from "The Stranger" in Superman's mouth. When a woman (Lois Lane?) asks, "Do you love me?" he responds: "Well, it's a meaningless question, but I suppose not."

Sikoryak doesn't save his mash-ups for only costumed superheroes. He uses Blondie and Dagwood to tell the story of Adam and Eve, and he uses Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" gang for Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" in ways I won't even attempt to describe.

It's original and daring and breathes life into both comics and classics. How could a book lover not love Sikoryak for that?
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  MASTERPIECE COMICS reviewed by Newsday

Updated November 23, 2009

'The Book of Genesis,' 'Logicomix,' more comic books

by Sam Thielman

'Masterpiece Comics," Robert Sikoryak's hilarious collection of literary riffs, avoids the swashbuckling adventure genre (traditional in novel-to-cartoon adaptations) and focuses on philosophical stuff like Albert Camus' "The Stranger," realized as "Action Camus" and featuring a cape-wearing muscleman with an appropriately blank space on his chest where a big "S" should be.

A man who looks uncannily like Jon Arbuckle of "Garfield" ends up making a deal with his satanic cat, a la Goethe's "Faust"; Kafka's insectoid Gregor Samsa has to deal with being called a blockhead on top of his metamorphosis; and don't even ask about Dante's "Inferno."

Besides their awesome funniness, what makes these cartoons impressive is Sikoryak's ability to mimic everyone from fantasist Winsor McCay ("Little Nemo in Slumberland") to animator Mike Judge ("Beavis and Butthead"). "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz had Parkinson's disease for much of his professional life, but Sikoryak is skilled enough even to re-create the wavery quality of his linework in homage. "Masterpiece" is exactly the right word.

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MASTERPIECE COMICS gets a 5/5 from Comixtreme

Updated November 16, 2009

Captain Andy's Graphic Funkapus #2

by Andrea Speed

Masterpiece Comics (Drawn & Quarterly)
By R. Sikoryak

What a brilliant idea. In this oversized book, classic literature is “re-imagined” in classic comic strip form. So you have Christopher Marlowe's “Dr. Faustus” redone as “Mephistofield”, starring the cast of the Garfield comic strip, “Good Ol' Gregor Brown" portraying Kafka's Metamorphosis through the cast of Peanuts, the Batman cast coming in for Raskol's Crime and Punishment (a redo of the Dostoevsky novel), and in one of my favorite mash ups, Mac Worth, giving us an abbreviated version of MacBeth starring the Mary Worth cast. Other goodies here include Wilde's Dorian Grey meeting Little Nemo In Slumberland, Wuthering Heights meeting Tales From The Crypt, Little Lulu meeting The Scarlet Letter (this works so well it verges on genius), and the most unusual bit, “Action Camus", which tells the tale of The Stranger through mock up Action Comics covers featuring a Superman like character as our existentialist amoral antihero. The stories are compressed very well, and all the art styles Sikoryak takes on are pitch perfect. I mean, they look exactly like the comics they're supposed to be, including the end page of Beavis and Butthead's version of "Waiting For Godot" (again, genius). It's rare that parody could also be used as a refresher course in the classics (both literary and comic), but this could. It is brilliant, and you must run, not walk, to get this immediately. Every shelf needs this book.

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  Time Out New York digs MASTERPIECE COMICS!

Updated November 16, 2009

Three comics deities turn out graphic novels that you should get to know in the biblical sense

by Evan Narcisse

If you’re looking for really subversive takes on the story of Adam and Eve, R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics will do you dandy. Sikoryak mashes up familiar comics-page staples with highbrow literary-canon fodder and comes up with funny pages that crackle with clever resonance. So, in Sikoryak’s Garden of Eden story, put-upon everyman Dagwood Bumstead stands in for Adam, his imperious boss J.C. Dithers plays the part of God, and cute-but-clueless wife Blondie becomes Blond Eve. Many of Sikoryak’s mash-ups are inspired. The author reframes Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment as a 1940s Batman story, revealing both stories to be grim melodramas with central characters who exploit the tension between law and responsibility. Whether it’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as a Little Nemo riff, Ziggy as Candide, or Macbeth done in the Mary Worth style, you can’t dismiss any of the works as simple gags, because Sikoryak consistently fuses the core strengths of each to create a punchy, surprising hybrid.

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R. SIKORYAK interviewed on NHPR's Word of Mouth

Updated October 26, 2009

Dante's Inferno Meets Bazooka Joe at Boston Book Festival

by Virginal Prescott





Click the link below to hear the interview:
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  MASTERPIECE COMICS is a hit with BarnesandNobleReview.com

Updated October 26, 2009

Masterpiece Comics

Reviewed by Douglas Wolk

Comics have an uncomfortable relationship with classic literature. For a long time, American comics had a reputation as bastard descendants of the classics: they were the disposable pamphlets that children concealed inside the serious books they were supposed to be reading, or that dumbed down the Great Works into Classics Illustrated. Even now, there's a persistent myth that the best comics are "literary" -- that, in other words, the best thing comics can do is act like prose literature.

That attitude, of course, is blind to everything outside the word balloons, which is one of the jokes of R. Sikoryak's dead-on parodies. He's been publishing the pieces collected here for a few decades now, and he's got a deceptively simple formula: take one masterpiece of world literature, render it in a familiar comic book or comic strip's style, repeat. So, for instance, Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus becomes "Mephistofield," a set of bing-bang-boom three-panel gag strips with Jim Davis's Garfield as Mephistopheles and Jon as Faust, and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray morphs into "Little Dori in Pictureland," by way of Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo in Slumberland."

What Sikoryak is parodying, though, isn't his literary sources but his cartooning sources. ("Dostoyevsky Comics" isn't simply Crime and Punishment as a Batman story: it's Crime and Punishment as the specific kind of Batman story Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson were writing and drawing in the mid-'40s.) He nails not only the visual styles of the cartoonists he's imitating--their compositions, their linework and lettering, their particular obsessions and tics -- but their entire sensibilities, right down to the way they pace a joke. "Good Ol' Gregor Brown" presents Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" as a series of "Peanuts" daily strips (Gregor Samsa has here become a gigantic bug wearing the familiar yellow-and-black zigag shirt), and it actually reads like Charles Schulz's cartoons. Sikoryak pulls off the distinctive wobble of Schulz's lines, his habit of pulling in for a close-up in the second panel, the way he staged off-panel action, and most of all the alienated anger that often percolated beneath the whimsy of "Peanuts."

Sikoryak's also a world-class condenser: "Inferno Joe" boils the entirety of Dante's Inferno down to a set of ten perfectly corny three-panel "Bazooka Joe" strips, complete with dumb puns ("Well, 'Dis' must be the end!") and little ads for prizes ("3 foot rubber tail, just like Minos uses to judge souls. Try it on your friends!"). And, occasionally, the twin sources for one of his parodies resonate with each other in unexpected ways. "Action Camus" transposes Albert Camus's The Stranger to '50s-style covers of Superman comics, on which its perverse reversals of ordinary emotions seem entirely fitting. ("An indestructible guillotine, a huge, hateful crowd -- it's all I hoped for!")

The central point of Sikoryak's mashups, though, is the unexpected sturdiness of light entertainment, and the way its forms can carry the content of dark, cruel moralism. It's pretty hilarious, on the face of it, to see The Scarlet Letter presented in the manner of John Stanley's "Little Lulu" comic books, with the role of Roger Chillingworth played by Lulu's pal Tubby with a toy beard. The surprise, though, is that "Hester's Little Pearl" turns out to be a wholly appropriate vessel for Nathaniel Hawthorne's characters and story. Stanley's "Little Lulu" stories were made to amuse children, but they were deep and durable enough that their style is still instantly recognizable more than half a century later. Isn't that the mark of a masterpiece?
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The Vernacular has a cartoonist crush on R. SIKORYAK

Updated October 26, 2009

Boston Book Fest: R. Sikoryak

by Bridget

I’ve decided I have a new cartoonist crush: R. Sikoryak. His latest book is Masterpiece Comics, which is, in the parlance of the modern DJ, a mashup of classic comics and even classic-ier literature. What happens when Blondie eats the Fruit of Knowledge? When Bazooka Joe enters Dante’s Inferno? When Charlie Brown awakes to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect?

Truth Justice, and the American Way? Not likely.

Sikoryak spoke at the Boston Book Fest this weekend, an entertaining panel that included neo-noir author Paul Tremblay and McSweeney’s fiction award winner Jessica Anthony (both of whose books I hope to read eventually, though they are not the subject of this post).

I admit, I was initially dubious of the concept when I read about it on one of my favorite blogs, the Comics Curmudgeon. “Isn’t this just Classics Illustrated all over again?” I asked myself.

No. Not at all. Rather than attempt purely to adapt a novel or story into comics form, Sikoryak is attempting something different here, and not simply parody either. As Sikoryak explained, he is drawn to big ‘Why are we here?’ kinds of questions—such as those considered in major works of literature—but then subverts those ideas by putting them into comics form.

The result is a quirky combination of cartoons and literature that seem shockingly congruent with one another (particularly with the addition of the cartoonist’s explanatory comments, offered in the form of a comic book’s letter page). There’s the ironic juxtaposition of oppositional ideas, such as the heroic and the existentialist in Action Camus. But just as often, there is simply an alignment of similar themes played out in multiple genres, approached from alternate angles.

Charlie Brown is feeling Kafkaesque today.
Even more amazing is Sikoryak’s chameleonic ability to represent a wide variety of cartoonists’ styles, ranging from the bold, simple lines of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts to the eerie, heavily-inked art of 50’s horror comics. The greater challenge, Sikoryak said at the Book Fest, was not just adopting the drawing style, but also the rhythms of each comic style into his narrative. At a glance, the strip could be Peanuts, with Charlie Brown’s predictable self-loathing and an excellent cameo from Snoopy. And yet, it remains just as faithful to Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.”

Some of the comics included in this collection may be a bit mystifying to those not lacking the well-read chops of the cartoonist. For example, the Ziggy-Candide mashup would have made more sense to me if I knew more than the barest minimum about Voltaire (it is perhaps a sad state of my writerhood that I am far more versed in comic strips than in literature). Fortunately, even Sikoryak admits the trouble inherent in making assumptions of his readers, asking the crowd, “Are you familiar with Ziggy? He’s less read than Voltaire these days, but then maybe they’re on an even keel.”

R. Sikoryak demonstrates the importance of not only the classic works that he’s parodying, but also the cartoon forms in which he’s depicting them and what each has to say about our lives and societies. Clearly, we should continue to read them both.
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Updated October 26, 2009


by Brent T. Ingram

For years now, comic book shelves have been crowded with illustrated biographies of everyone from rock bands like Kiss and R.E.M., to, most recently, political and real-world figures like Barack Obama and Barbara Walters. Likewise, literature has long been converted into comic book form to somehow turn comic book geeks on to literary classics, most famously in Classics Illustrated, but they've never been reimagined quite like this.

Take Mephistofield, wherein the comic strip Garfield is brilliantly turned into Faust, with the cat in goat horns and Jon making the unbeatable bargain. Sikoryak puts Dante's Inferno in a series of bubblegum wrappers (Inferno Joe) and Wuthering Heights is told in a Tale of Horror comic book. He allows the parody to take on new levels, though when he includes those doofy "Letters" pages from the days of yore, with people writing in such gems as: "Jon Faustus is always bossing MEPHISTOFIELD around, and yet Meph is really in control the whole time. What's going on here?" There are also fake ads for other books, like Action Camus, featuring an "S"-less Superman. And on the final page, we get Beavis and Butthead doing Waiting for Godot.

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R. SIKORYAK at the Boston Book Festival!

Updated October 26, 2009

Boston bound in literature
First ever Book Festival brings authors to Beantown

by Catherine Scott

Turn off that TV, stash the remote and bury your nose in a book — or better yet, book it to Copley Square this weekend for a festival sure to make any bookworm squirm.

This Saturday, Oct. 24th, marks the very first Boston Book Festival, a free all-day extravaganza for book lovers of any age that will last from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Famous authors will gather to meet fans, discuss literature and celebrate the joys of writing.

Deborah Porter, the founder and president of the Boston Book Festival, said the event has been in the works for over four years. She brought on Emily Pardo, the festival’s executive director, a little over a year ago to finally make the idea a reality in 2009.

“Boston is probably one of the only major cities that doesn’t have a book festival,” Pardo said. “It seems pretty amazing given the number of colleges and universities that are here.”

As Boston has been home to more than a handful of
great writers — including Hawthorne, Longfellow, Emerson and Thoreau — it seems a natural location to celebrate literature. The festival will take place inside buildings that highlight Beantown’s history, notably the Boston Public Library, Old South Church and Trinity Church, as well as outdoors in Copley Square.

Pardo has been working non-stop for the past year to bring authors to town to speak at the festival, organizing panels and events and working to raise funds. She received significant support from Tufts for the festival, with students interning over the summer and fall.

“There’s a lot of Tufts muscle behind the festival,” Pardo said.

The result is a literature lover’s dream. About 100 authors and presenters are expected to attend, and a variety of events cater to every reader’s taste. The festival features everything from historical works to fiction to children’s books.

Joseph Finder, one of the presenters in a panel entitled “Thrillers and Killers,” has written eight novels set in the corporate world. His work focuses on themes of corruption and espionage. Finder segued into fiction after beginning his career as a journalist and admitted that the transition was difficult.

“I had to really teach myself how to write a novel,” Finder said. “I was really bad, but I read a lot of thrillers and a lot of novels and taught myself how.”
One of the most important aspects of writing today, according to Finder, is understanding how entertainment and literature are related, and how each meshes with the goals of the author.

“Readers want to be entertained, even if it’s literature. Fiction is escapism,” Finder said. “I think people who write entertainment and people who write literature have two different objectives, but you still have to grab people.”

Finder first wrote a non-fiction work about a real-life corporate scandal. The book got him into a lot of trouble and prompted him to move to fiction. Though Finder is still interested in the corporate world, he now builds on true events to create spellbinding fiction rather than factual accounts.
“When you’re writing this kind of book, there are questions like how accurate do you need to be, how obligated are you to get all the facts right, how do you do research, those sorts of things,” Finder said. “I always want to figure out if you can use fiction to reveal truths that non-fiction can’t.”

Finder’s newest book “Vanished” (2009) has become a bestseller, and another novel of his, “Paranoia” (2004), is lined up for a silver screen adaptation. Finder will speak at “Thrillers and Killers” at 4 p.m. this Saturday in the Boston Public Library’s Popular Reading Room.

Another panel at the festival, “And Now for Something Completely Different,” highlights the works of three writers, all of whom are putting a new spin on fiction writing. One of the panelists, R. Sikoryak, has written a psuedo-comic book novel, “Masterpiece Comics” (2009), in which he inserts classic stories, such as Dante’s “Inferno” or Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” into old comic strips like “Batman” or “Garfield.”

“I wanted to retell these stories in comics, in my own language that I understand,” Sikoryak said. “These stories have withstood the tests of time. It’s a way of combining two things that mean a lot to me.”

Sikoryak noted that although some may see his work as irreverent or frivolous, he feels that there is a depth to comics that is only now being understood in American culture. He argued that comics are being taken increasingly seriously, while literature is being relegated to a lower rung.

“I hope that people see the affection with which I’m treating these classic stories as well as the cartoons, and I get the sense that they do for the most part,” Sikoryak said.

Sikoryak will be discussing these issues as well as his process for writing a comic book novel starting at 2:30 p.m. in the Trinity Church Forum.
The Boston Book Festival promises to engage readers in discourse about the written word and allow fans and newcomers alike to meet a slew of literary artisans.
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  MASTERPIECE COMICS makes the Very Short List!

Updated October 21, 2009

The Observer's Very Short List:
Pop Culture

Ever wondered what would happen if Garfield were to meet Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus? Or if Beavis and Butt-head were left waiting for Godot? Probably not. But luckily comic-book artist R. Sikoryak has, as he demonstrates in the clever and fun Masterpiece Comics, which mashes up classical works of literature with comic strips to great effect.
Shakespeare, Wilde and Camus are just some of the writers that get the surprising pop-culture-twist treatment, and what makes the book succeed beyond its canny concept is Sikoryak’s thoughtful marriage of the disparate materials. In “Dostoyevsky Comics,” he’s made loner vigilante Bruce Wayne Crime and Punishment’s Raskol (instead of the bat signal, he gets an ax). And in our personal favorite, “Good Ol’ Gregor Brown,” lovable loser Charlie Brown wakes up a cockroach à la Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (Snoopy is the maid). Good grief, indeed.
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R. Sikoryak interviewed by NYDailyNews.com

Updated October 21, 2009

Comics meet literature in the work of R. Sikoryak

by Patrick Montero

At first glance you might think R. Sikoryak’s comics are simple gag strips poking fun at western literature, but you would be dead wrong.

Sikoryak combines iconic American comics with complimentary literary classics, creating a new identity for both works that is entertaining and thought-provoking. His comics are an example of how much the genre has grown up, and how far it's come as a serious form of art.

“Mastrepiece Comics” collects 20 years of parodies that originally appeared in a host of anthologies including Drawn & Quarterly, Raw, New York Press and Hotwire amongst others.

You can expect to find Dagwood and Blondie from “Blonde Eve” in the story of “Genesis,” and laugh your head off with Garfield as the lasagna-eating devil incarnate Mephistofield in his take on “Dr. Faustus.”

The book collects his re-imaginings of "Crime and Punishment," "The Scarlet Letter," "The Picture of Dorian Grey," and many others, all done in the style of famous cartoon characters ranging from Batman and Lulu to Little Nemo and Beavis and Butthead.

As an extra treat, Sikoryak has included parodies of 1940s and '50s comic book ads and comic covers exclusively for this book.

This is not a book that should be missed. Fans of comics and classic literature alike will discover a new understanding of the characters and stories that have been so dear to them for decades.

Sikoryak will be launching his book tour at the Strand (Broadway at 12th Street) on September 24, along with a slide show. If you haven’t seen his lectures you’re in for a treat. Sikoryak is a very animated person whose love and understanding of the comics form inspires his audience to look at comics in a whole new light.

Daily News: How did you get started drawing comics?

R. Sikoryak: I had two older brothers who were into comics, so I had a lot of comic books and books about cartoons lying around that I could absorb. We would collaborate on projects and did a lot of parodies of superhero comic books as kids, so I was thinking about and drawing cartoons from an early age. I kind of did a daily strip thing, I didn’t literally do it every day, but I did a lot of strips in that 4-panel gag cartoon style, kind of in the tradition of “Peanuts.”

What inspired you to take the leap into doing comics professionally?

It was something that I always enjoyed doing. I don’t think it was necessarily a conscious decision, but I knew I wanted to keep drawing comics. I don’t think I ever saw myself ever doing a daily strip per se, but I knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind. I just always loved comics, I loved the form, and I understood it from an early age. The fact that it’s something that you could accomplish on your own is something that also really appealed to me, and still does. I like the creative control you have in the form, and you don’t need a crew to make it happen.

How do you choose your subject matter for your parodies?

Well, I try to pick stuff that is rather timeless and immortal as they may say. I like working with material that people are aware of even if they haven’t necessarily read all the books that I parody. I try to choose stuff that had a cultural impact to a certain extent. I like playing around with those things that are kind of in our collective cultural consciousness. How I choose to combine the two things is something I do from just pondering what’s out there and what I want to work with. I like the idea of trying to find a connection between two things that are clearly completely polar opposites, in terms of the audience and intent, but hopefully finding enough parallels either in the storyline or characters that there’s stuff I can play off of.

How long have you been doing comics professionally?

One of the strips I was working on while I was attending Parsons was published in 1988. It was a 4-page strip that I worked on and off again for about a year, that was my first published piece. In the meantime I was also doing production work for Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly at their magazine Raw. They saw that 4-page strip of mine and asked me to do one for Raw. I kind of felt like I hit the big times in terms of the comics world.

I would also do freelance work, and I did comic parodies for Esquire Magazine in the early ‘90s. A lot of my work came from illustration rather than comics though, but I’m always happy to take a cartooning job when I can get it.

Who are your major influences?

Well, part of the reason I do parodies is because I’m very easily influenced and my work would feel very derivative if I wasn’t consciously parodying other work. So a lot of the stuff that I really admire and am really drawn to you don’t necessarily see their influence in my work, because I try to stick to the parody thing. I guess I love every cartoonist I’ve ever parodied, and I feel like I get a lot out of each cartoon I’ve done. Certainly early on, “Peanuts” was a big influence on me, and working at Raw and all those artists were a huge influence on the way that I work. Art Spiegleman really refines his work and hones it before it’s published. He’s not someone who I think would ever be interested in doing a daily strip. I certainly think I got a lot out of that approach to comics.

I would say one of my early influences was Gary Panter, whose work kind of goes all over the place stylistically. He has a very organic and, at least, seemingly direct way of working. It seems spontaneous, even though a lot of it clearly isn’t, but it has a very loose and fresh look. My work is very hermetic and very controlled. I may be diametrically opposed to his work in terms of the presentation but there’s certainly something to his work and drawing ethic I find very inspiring.

I love a lot of the usual suspects, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes and a lot of the people who were in “Raw” I think were just amazing. I really came out of that school of cartooning.

Do you contact the artists before you start drawing a parody?

Oh no, certainly not. I think that in some ways it might squelch my enthusiasm. I’m someone who really likes to keep quiet while I’m working on something. I don’t generally want to promote it too much or talk about it before it happens. I feel like I need the secrecy and I need the solitude to make it work.

I have sent my work out to people after the fact though, but in general I have not shown it to people in advance.

What sort of reactions have you received from the creators of the comics you’ve parodied?

In 1990 I did a strip called “Good ol’ Gregor Brown” that appeared in Raw magazine. I sent a copy to Charles Schultz and told him I was a big fan, explained how much he meant to me and what an inspiration he was. He sent me a letter back saying, “I thought the strip was very imaginative and I appreciated the way you treated the satire ...” It was just a couple of lines, but it was so gratifying to hear back from him. It was really great. That was my only contact with Charles Schultz.

I also got a nice letter from Jim Davis, who does Garfield, for a strip that sort of parodied Garfield in a — what if an abstract expressionist drew Garfield? The drawing style was completely blurry and smudgy and was sort of as if Willem de Kooning had drawn cats.

In general I’ve received gracious responses from people and if anyone was angry they didn’t tell me about it (laughs).

Do you revisit the same sources to parody?

Yeah, I’ve done some commercial jobs where I’ve been asked to parody strips I’ve done already. For the most part the strips that I write and draw myself I really try to make it my definitive statement about the characters. I don’t really want to go back and do them again.

I’ve done a lot of different parodies for Nickelodeon magazine. I’ve done multiple Garfield parodies and I think I’ve done Dilbert a couple of times for them. A lot of strips come up again so I’ve had to revisit characters, but in general I don’t go back too often. I did another Garfield parody, but it was kind of in a completely different style. It was much more in keeping with the rhythms of the actual comic strip.

How do you decide the length of your parodies?

It really depends on the comic strip that I’m parodying. Some of them are one Sunday page and some of them are 12 pages long. My version of “The Scarlet Letter” in the style of “Little Lulu” was 12 pages because that was about the length that any of those “Lulu” stories were. I try to cram the story into the format of the strips. It seems to me it would be absurd to do a 100-page version of a book in the style of “Lulu” because none of those comics were that long. It’s for better or for worst I choose to stick with the form that I’m parodying. I think in some ways it’s really useful because I find that having constraints on the kind of choices I have to make is really helpful. It pushes my work in directions I wouldn’t necessarily go in.

To see what other works R. Sikoryak has done outside of his classic literature parodies, go to www.rsikoryak.com/index.html.

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R. Sikoryak


  MASTERPIECE COMICS reviewed by Vue Weekly

Updated October 20, 2009

Graphic Novels:
A cross-section of this year's graphic novels explores time and space, war and disaster and classic novels abridged into cartoons

by Brian Gibson

* R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics is a lighter take on suffering—the suffering in Dante or Shakespeare, Brontë or Beckett. Part-parody, part-abridged classics, these are best when they melt epic down into corny quips or collide angst with action heroes: the Inferno gets wrapped up in Bazooka Joe, Superman changes into Camus' shrugging Stranger: "Do you love me?" "Well, it's a meaningless question, but I suppose not."
The longer efforts come off as abridged classics mixed with comic homage, lacking cleverness beyond the visuals. (A '50s-horror comic version of Wuthering Heights doesn't even allude to the most lurid moments of that book: rape, dog-murder.) The explanations for the strips, passed off as mailbag queries at the end of comic books, aren't really necessary. When Sikoryak sticks to reducing the complexity of literature to comic idioms—a mail-order ad for a kid-sized replica of the Pequod, from Moby Dick, caricatures Melville's central metaphor with a picture of a kid clinging to a coffin-shaped piece of wood in the water—then Masterpiece Comics comes alive, bringing a Sunday-funnies snappiness to these old, super-serious texts.
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R. Sikoryak


MASTERPIECE COMICS reviewed by Montreal Mirror

Updated October 20, 2009

Cartooning the canon

R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics boils
high-brow literature down to its essence.

by Rupert Bottenberg

In The New Yorker magazine, underground comix pioneer R. Crumb recently previewed his forthcoming Bible-as-graphic-novel project with a fairly straightforward adaptation of the Book of Genesis—but he’s not the first comic-crafting “R.” to tackle that introductory yarn from the Western world’s favourite work of fiction. New York City cartoonist R. Sikoryak did so a few years back and took it a step further—he retold the tale using the characters and style of Chic Young’s Sunday-paper staple, Blondie.

Sikoryak has been developing a clever conceit for some years now, often showcasing it during the Carousel comic slideshow readings he curates. He takes a venerated work of highbrow literature, distills it down to its essence and retells it using popular comic-book characters, mimicking the tics and techniques of the original artists. These efforts are now gathered in the collection Masterpiece Comics from Drawn & Quarterly.

Sikoryak’s saddled himself with a two-fold task. On the one hand, he has to reduce famous works by Shakespeare, Camus, Dante, Voltaire and such to their barest components without losing the gist, going for greater minimalism than even Coles Notes. On the other, he has to imitate the inking style, the compositional quirks, even the very lettering of widely recognized comic artists like Jim Davis (Garfield becomes Goethe’s Faust) or Charles Schulz (good ol’ Charlie Brown becomes Kafka’s hapless, miserable Gregor Samsa).

Like a lot of interesting notions in humour, Sikoryak’s adaptations work best when they’re short and sweet. The momentum is soon lost in the 14-page, EC horror-comic-style version of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, a centrepiece of the book. Sikoryak fumbles the reduction of the narrative and moreover fails to capture the ragged energy of EC artist Jack Davis. More successful are his fusing of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment with Batman—the original one by Bob Kane, whose work betrayed all manner of emotional pathology—and a real charmer, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, for which Sikoryak brilliantly simulates the tone and structure of Winsor McCay’s classic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. (RB)
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R. Sikoryak


R. Sikoryak and R. O. Blechman at the Strand in NYC!

Updated September 22, 2009

The Strand and Drawn & Quarterly present... R. Sikoryak and R.O. Blechman

September 24 07:00PM
828 Broadway at 12th

Slideshows, Conversation and Signing

R.O. Blechman and R. Sikoryak are two multifaceted artists who have achieved international acclaim in the fields of animation, illustration and cartooning. Their literary comics have been featured in The New Yorker, RAW and Humbug, among others. Talking Lines collects a decade's worth of Blechman's comics, including The Juggler of Our Lady (1953), which was the first full-length graphic novel by a contemporary cartoonist. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics collects 20 years of his comic adaptations of the classics, culled from anthologies such as Drawn & Quarterly, RAW and Hotwire.
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R.O. Blechman
R. Sikoryak

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Talking Lines


Updated September 15, 2009

By Zack Handlen, Noel Murray, Leonard Pierce, and Tasha Robinson September 4, 2009

R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics (D&Q) essentially repeats one joke across its 64 pages, but at least it’s a good joke. Over the past 20 years, Sikoryak has popped up in comics anthologies like Raw and Drawn & Quarterly with superbly crafted, sublimely conceptual strips that combine classic cartoons and superheroes with classic literature. Little Lulu and Tubby star in an adaptation of The Scarlet Letter; Bazooka Joe braves Dante’s Inferno, and so on. Sikoryak’s mimicry of artists like Jim Davis and Winsor McKay is uncanny, and when he combines concepts smartly, he finds ways to comment on both halves of his source material. In “Good Ol’ Gregor Brown,” for example, Sikoryak slaps Franz Kafka on top of Charles Schulz, and when a cockroach-bodied Charlie Brown sighs into the darkness that “I’ve become a burden on the family… nothing satisfies my desires,” the content and tone of the strip isn’t that far removed from an actual Peanuts comic. Like the best mash-ups, Sikoryak’s mini-masterpieces reveal new interpretations of the work the artist is sampling… A-

Like Antonio Prohias, cartoonist/animator R.O. Blechman specializes in doing more with less. Prohias’ Spy Vs. Spy works without dialogue; Blechman works with tiny squiggles that represent kings and commoners alike. Talking Lines (D&Q) collects more than 50 years of Blechman stories, ranging from the whimsical to the pointedly political, in a handsomely designed hardcover that resembles the low-print-run cartoon collections of the mid-20th century. (Naturally, it comes with an introduction by Seth.) Blechman’s more recent work for The Nation and The New York Times is a little too blunt, lacking the charm of his earlier stories, but Talking Lines still has plenty of worthy pieces, including the 1968 story “The Emperor’s New Armor” (a charming, effective parable about military spending), and the previously unpublished “Georgie” (a heartbreaking meditation on parental anxiety). When Blechman is on his game, there are few cartoonists better at injecting the full range of human emotion into a cramped, unsteady line… B+

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R.O. Blechman
R. Sikoryak

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Talking Lines

  MASTERPIECE COMICS reviewed by The Globe and Mail

Updated September 15, 2009


Martin Levin

Last updated on Tuesday, Sep. 08, 2009 09:55AM EDT

Here's how the story goes: Awed by Michelangelo's statue of David, the then-Pope asked the sculptor, “How do you know what to cut away from the stone?”

“It's simple,” Michelangelo said. “I just remove everything that doesn't look like David.”

In other words, he was liberating the figures trapped in stone, a process that can be seen in his suffocatingly great unfinished sculptures of slaves in the Accademia in Florence.

Well, I don't make quite the same claim for greatness for the brilliant American cartoonist R. Sikoryak, but he's doing something similar in his unique vision of comic books. Sikoryak takes great literary classics and imagines them as if they were comic books. And he succeeds brilliantly in this self-proclaimed arena “where classics and cartoons collide,” or what this newspaper has already called “a canny fusion of overlapping fictional legacies.

In Masterpiece Comics, the indispensable Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly brings together a number of Sikoryak ventures that have already appeared, but over 20 years, and in publications most of you will never have heard of: Monkeysuit, Snake Eyes, Raw.

And it's a great service, because seeing them together convinces that Sikoryak found the comic in the classic, the classic in the comic.

In what is both parody and homage (to the old Classics Illustrated comic books as much as to the classics themselves), he retells the classics in ways that are both funny and, oddly, deep. And sometimes disturbing.

Thus, Hester's Little Pearl is Little Lulu meets Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. The innocent Lulu is Hester Prynne, condemned to bear the scarlet A of the adulteress on her person while hounded by her obsessively judgmental secret husband Roger Chillingworth, here played by the always morally dubious Tubby, in false beard and mad pursuit. The collision of the two brings out all the (im)moral possibilities of the Lulu comics while showing us the comic possibilities of Hawthorne's Puritan America. The cover, a perfect imitation of Little Lulu design, gives us the publisher as Fell comics, a cleverly lapsarian allusion to original publisher Dell.

The longest story is The House-Keeper's Tale, a mash-up of Wuthering Heights and EC comics' Tales from the Crypt, which plumbs the fully horrific depths of Emily Brontë's gothic romance.

There isn't anything here that is less than excellent: Dagwood and a very shapely Blondie (a believable temptress) as Adam and Eve, with a white-suited Mr. Dithers as God; the little comics that came with Bazooka gum are now part of Dante's Inferno bubble gum and can be redeemed for such things as a three-headed dog collar or a road map of Hell; Mary Worth is transformed into Lady Macbeth; Charlie Brown becomes Gregor Samsa in Kafka's The Metamorphosis (and if ever a comic-strip character was meant to be turned into an insect, it is surely good ol' Charlie Brown, whose misery and social unease are a match for Samsa's), and so entertainingly on.

For me, the very best of this wonderful collection is Dostoevsky Comics, in which the dark possibilities of Batman (now a standard trope of graphic novels and cinema) are superbly explored. In Crime and Punishment!, he is Raskol, or Raskolnikov, the Nietzschean student who kills an old woman pawnbroker. The thing is, the old woman is ... the Joker. But this is perfect, for how different is the caped crusader, the lone vigilante, from the febrile student who imagines himself above the law.

What makes this collection even more outstanding is Sikoryak's uncanny ability to mimic, in exact detail, the styles of the comics he both loves and mocks. You'd swear his Crime and Punishment is by Bob Kane, or that good ol' Gregor Brown was produced by Charles M. Schulz himself. It's a flawless imitation which at the same time manages to establish its own identity: quite a feat. It leaves me wondering what he'd have done with Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, or Walt Kelly's Pogo.

Definitely a keeper.

Martin Levin is Books editor of The Globe and Mail. He hopes that R. Sikoryak has another 20 years of such mad merriment in him.
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R. Sikoryak



Updated September 4, 2009

Classics, Comics In Masterful Mashups

by Glen Weldon

It would be a mistake to dismiss cartoonist R. Sikoryak's highly stylized mashups of comics and classic literature as mere parody. They are that, of course: It's certainly amusing to see the artist depicting Lady Macbeth, for example, as Mary Worth, the funny pages' most venerable buttinsky.

But Sikoryak is up to something more substantial here — he's not simply satirizing Shakespeare's regicidal Thane (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Rex Morgan, M.D.), nor is he just poking fun at the way Mary is always sticking her blue rinse into everyone's business.

No, in "MacWorth," and in the 13 other cartoon sendups of the literary canon collected in Masterpiece Comics, Sikoryak skillfully finds and plumbs the connections between so-called high and low culture. These parallels are his true medium, and as fun as it is to see the chameleonic Sikoryak deftly interpolating the art style of Little Lulu, Garfield and Superman, the real joy of Masterpiece Comics comes in seeing how, again and again, the cartoonist lines things up to ensure that comic strip and classic book comment on one another.

When it works — when he locates deep affinities between a literary work and a contemporary strip — the result distills the essence of both, allowing you to see them with fresh eyes. Often, the connections Sikoryak uncovers are intuitive, reflecting similarities of tone and mood between the two works in question. This is nowhere more apparent than when he marries the tale of Kafka's Gregor Samsa to that most haplessly Kafkaesque of all comic strip characters, Charlie Brown.

The fusion ("Good ol' Gregor Brown") works so well that you can't help but notice how much emotional real estate the two authors share. And Sikoryak has internalized the strip's simple line work so well that even though you know in your head that Schulz never drew a giant dung beetle wearing Charlie Brown's iconic yellow shirt, you feel certain this is what it would look like if he had.

Masterpiece Comics is full of "but of course!" moments like that one. In retelling the Genesis story, what better candidate to personify the quick-to-anger Old Testament Jehovah than Dagwood Bumstead's hotheaded, cigar-chomping boss, Mr. Dithers? The tale of Dante's Inferno plays out, canto by canto, as a series of Bazooka Joe bubble gum wrappers; Wuthering Heights becomes an old EC horror comic; Voltaire's Candide gets re-imagined as Ziggy; Garfield shows his Mephistophelian side in an updated Doctor Faustus.

Until now, fans of Sikoryak's takes on the classics have had to seek them out in indie-comic anthologies like Raw or Drawn and Quarterly. Masterpiece Comics combines those previously published works with new material designed to look like ads from vintage comic books, including one for a scale model of Captain Ahab's doomed whaler ("Because of the PEQUOD WHALING SHIP's enormous metaphorical weight we must ask for 75-cent shipping charges").

Masterpiece Comics is an impressively diverse collection of Sikoryak's clever, distinctive and ultimately illuminating work; it reads like the assigned textbook for the coolest Great Books survey course of all time.
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R. Sikoryak


  D+Q in Brooklyn! Rocketship on 9/12! BBF on 9/13!

Updated August 25, 2009

Drawn & Quarterly To Exhibit At The Brooklyn Book Fair on September 13th!
20th Anniversary Party at Brooklyn's Rocketship on September 12th!
Special Guests Include Guy Delisle, R. Sikoryak, R.O. Blechman, Adrian Tomine, Gabrielle Bell and Ron Rege Jr!

For the third year in a row, D+Q will be exhibiting at the Brooklyn Book Festival. The festival has kindly invited Guy Delisle (Burma Chronicles, Pyongyang, Shenzhen) to be a special guest on the festival's international stage, which will mark Delisle's first-ever NYC event. D+Q cartoonists in attendance will be R. Sikoryak (Masterpiece Comics), R. O. Blechman (Talking Lines), Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings), Gabrielle Bell (Cecil & Jordan In New York) and Ron Rege Jr. (Skibber Bee Bye, Against Pain). To celebrate such a momentous gathering of D+Q cartoonists as well as toast to the company's 20th Anniversary, please join us for cocktails at the Brooklyn purveyor of fine comics, Rocketship, on Saturday evening.

Saturday, September 12th, 7:00 PM
Rocketship 208 Smith Street Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, September 13th, 10:00AM-6:00 PM
Brooklyn Book Festival Borough Hall Brooklyn NY

11:00 AM Guy Delisle on the BBF's International Stage
11:00-12:00 PM Gabrielle Bell & Ron Rege Jr signing
12:00-2:00 PM Guy Delisle & Adrian Tomine signing
2:00-4:00 PM R. O. Blechman & R. Sikoryak signing
4:00-6:00 PM Guy Delisle & Gabrielle Bell signing

Featured artists

R.O. Blechman
Guy Delisle
R. Sikoryak

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Burma Chronicles
Masterpiece Comics
Talking Lines

MASTERPIECE COMICS reviewed by Booklist

Updated August 12, 2009

*Starred Review* Masterpiece Comics. By R. Sikoryak.
Even as the more ambitious comics artists are breaking down the barriers between high and low culture, Sikoryak mines the longstanding differences between literary classics and lowbrow comics to telling effect. For two decades, he has been producing meticulously precise, cleverly incisive mash-ups of literary landmarks and familiar comics. Wuthering Heights becomes an EC horror tale recounted by Nelly Dean, the “House [à la Crypt] -Keeper”; The Scarlet Letter is retold in the style of John Stanley’s Little Lulu; “Dostoyevsky Comics” recastsCrime and Punishment to look like Bob Kanes’ Batman; and in “Good Ol’ Gregor Brown,” Charlie Brown is transformed into Kafka’s cockroach. It wouldn’t work if Sikoryak didn’t pay such close attention to the particulars of both the classics and the comics. Dialogue and actions are scrupulously faithful to the originals, and re-creations of the artists’ visual styles are uncanny. Sikoryak’s remarkable parodies will obviously be best appreciated by readers knowledgeable about both the literary originals and the comics on which his adaptations are modeled, but even those only passingly familiar with either or both will recognize Sikoryak’s comical brilliance. —Gordon Flagg

Featured artist

R. Sikoryak


  MASTERPIECE COMICS in The Rolling Stone

Updated August 12, 2009

The Biggest Comics at Comic-Con
Cooke's "The Hunter" and Powell's "Swallow Me Whole," plus Marvel and DC's main events

DOUGLAS WOLKPosted Jul 27, 2009 7:15 AM

The buzz around movies and TV shows and video games at Comic-Con International gets louder every year as the convention gets bigger. But the soul of the convention is comics of every kind, and the middle of the show floor — where virtually every English-language comics publisher comes to show off their wares, and cartoonists of every stripe come to meet their readers — has been so packed at this year's show that it's often hard to move around.

The centerpiece of Comic-Con is the Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards — the comics equivalent of the Oscars. This year's Eisners had a handful of welcome surprises: young cartoonist Nate Powell's independently published "Swallow Me Whole," a chilling, bleakly atmospheric tale of two half-siblings trying to fight their way out of mental illness, took top honors in the graphic novel category, and Best Webcomic went to Carla Speed McNeil's ingenious, eccentric science-fiction series "Finder." A few winners were easy to predict, though: James Jean's covers for Fables and The Umbrella Academy seem to win Best Cover Artist every year like clockwork, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's universally adored All Star Superman was a shoe-in for Best Continuing Series. And the night's big winner was the Mike Mignola-created Hellboy/BPRD universe, various iterations of which took home five Eisners.

Independent comics publishers always take advantage of Comic-Con to debut major books, and the talk of the show is star artist Darwyn Cooke's "The Hunter," a gorgeous noir graphic novel based on Richard Stark's first Parker novel. Jeff Smith was on hand to sign copies of Bone and RASL; Scott McCloud (of Understanding Comics fame) was wandering from booth to booth and talking up David Mazzucchelli's brilliant, design-intensive new graphic novel Asterios Polyp; R. Sikoryak premiered his long-awaited Masterpiece Comics, a collection of his deliciously clever condensations of classic literature in the form of classic comics (like Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" rendered as a series of "Peanuts" strips). Over at the Fantagraphics Books table, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez were signing copies of their new volume of the beloved Love and Rockets series, as well as two handsome new hardcover collections: Jaime's Locas II and Gilbert's Luba.

As far as mainstream superhero comics go, two huge "event comics" have dominated this year's convention: Marvel's "Dark Reign" (in which supervillains seize power in America and take over the roles of the superhero community) and DC's "Blackest Night" (in which every DC hero or villain who's ever died rises from the grave as a murderous zombie). The latter has its own wave of merchandising as viral advertising: a line of T-shirts with the symbols and colors of the eight armies in the "war of light," each representing a particular emotion, are by far the most popular clothing for the show's attendees. It's some kind of good sign that the best-selling shirts are the "blue lantern," a symbol that stands for hope.

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R. Sikoryak


D+Q artists in San Diego Tribune

Updated July 27, 2009

Robert L. Pincus | Creative Reading
Treasures lying in wait to be discovered

By Robert Pincus
Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. July 26, 2009

As Comic-Con has evolved into a juggernaut for the promotion of everything pop culture, it's easy to overlook one of the event's prime pleasures: the chance to learn about lesser-known writers and artists and often meet them, too.

My prime example: Adrian Tomine, who has developed into a gifted creator of sophisticated comics and graphic novels. If you don't know him for Optic Nerve, his series of urbane comics, you may have seen one or more of his illustrations for The New Yorker, Time and many other publications. They have a crisp, linear style thick with atmosphere.

Like Daniel Clowes, who also does covers for The New Yorker as well as his own acclaimed comics and books, Tomine has an understated visual style that combines wit, social commentary, psychological insights and elegant drawing. And like Clowes, he can write, too.

The year I met Tomine, in 2002, he had just come out with “Summer Blonde,” which assembled stories from issues of Optic Nerve into a book with a particularly stylish cover. Its four stories featured typical Tomine protagonists: sensitive malcontents in their 20s and early 30s who struggle to figure out what to do with their lives.

Tomine, born in 1974, concentrates on his own generation, though you never get the feeling that he is trying to make any sort of grandiose statement about people in their 20s and early 30s. He's intrigued by their singularity: a writer who succeeds with his first novel but develops a creative block for his second and becomes obsessed with a girl he adored in high school; a Chinese-American woman who loses her job, loses her bearings in her life and, then, as the story ends, begins a new romance and tries to face up to a death in her family.

He was something of a comics prodigy, too, self-publishing the first seven issues of Optic Nerve before signing on with the now well-established publisher of comics and graphic novels Drawn and Quarterly. These early comics are now reissued in facsimiles of the originals, as “32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics.” And while this is apprentice work, it's awfully good in that respect. Tomine would refine out his drawing style markedly, but early on, he could convey a lot about a face and he offered moments of keen insights about the marginal and the disaffected.

In high school, he counted himself among them. And he contributes a new charming self-deprecating introduction for this “box set” of the original comics, which appeared in book form a few years ago. (They are packaged in a nifty cardboard case.)

“If you're a 'glass half full' kind of person,” Tomine writes, “you might say that these comics are youthful, energetic and even enlightening in terms of the evolution they chart. If you're feeling less charitable, you'd probably describe them as amateurish, scattershot, affected and deeply derivative.”

Both views are true. And seeing them helps someone to understand how far he had traveled. In fact, his best book to date, “Shortcomings,” the story of a sarcastic, sensitive and troubled Ben Tanaka, has recently come out in paperback. Reading “Thirty Two Stories” and “Shortcomings” side by side bookends his evolution.

Tomine isn't appearing at Drawn and Quarterly's booth this year. But notable peers are. Today, from noon to 3 p.m., Jason Lutes will be signing the second book in his evocative saga of 1930s Germany, “Berlin, City of Smoke,” and Bob Sikoryak will be joining him during those hours to promote his new “Masterpiece Comics” book, which blurs the line between classic literary tales and vintage comics. (For example, Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray is recast as a dandyish Little Nemo.) Check out the publisher's blog for updates: drawnandquarterly.com/blog/index.php.

Fantagraphics (fantagraphics.com), another leading graphic novel publisher, has a significant list of writer-artists making appearances today, including Gilbert, Jaime, Mario and Natalia Hernandez (“Love and Rockets #2”) and Monte Schulz (son of Charles M., with his new novel, “This Side of Jordan”).

But leave time to seek out smaller presses like San Diego's Murphy Art Books (murphydesign1.blogspot.com), and you'll find publications that merge the image and the word in myriad other ways. And as was the case with my introduction to Tomine at Comic-Con, you are likely to come across the work of someone you'll want to follow in the years to come.
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Featured artists

Jason Lutes
Adrian Tomine
R. Sikoryak

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Berlin, Book One: City of Stones
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set

  R. SIKORYAK interviewed by The Daily Crosshatch

Updated July 23, 2009

It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Beethoven composed his 9th Symphony over course of six. Jonas Salk, meanwhile, spent eight years chasing the cure for Polio. According to the copyright on the inside cover of Drawn & Quarterly’s Masterpiece Comics, the book’s 13 strips were created by R. Sikoryak over the course of 20 years—roughly the same period of time it took tens of thousands of workers to complete the Great Pyramid of Giza.

While it would, perhaps, be a bit of a stretch to suggest that the work were an accomplishment on par with, say, that big triangular structure in the middle of the Egyptian desert, the collection has certainly been eagerly awaited for all of those who’ve followed the New York-based artist’s work, which, over the past two decades, has appeared everywhere from RAW to The New Yorker to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

But while Sikoryak has certainly built an impressive portfolio by way of his freelance output, the strips that comprise Masterpiece Comics are his masterwork, filtering some of the greatest works of literature through some of 20th century sequential art’s most iconic figures. The cast of Bazooka Joe plays out Dante’s Inferno, Garfield becomes Mephistopheles to Jon Arbuckle’s Dr. Faustus, and Beavis and Butthead wait patiently for Godot.

These 13 strips are not straight comic satire, however. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics are defined by two key factors. First is the artist’s devotion to his source material—never straying too far from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, even as Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego adopts the role of Raskolnikov. Second is Sikoryak’s commitment to aesthetics, switching gracefully from Winsor McCay to Charles Schulz to Joe Shuster.

In honor of the book’s release in September (with early editions available at San Diego), we sat down with Sikoryak to discuss the book’s secret origins.

The copyright in the front of the book is about 20 years long.

It’s 1989 to 2009.

So this was a two-decade long project for you.

Yeah. I kind of hate to say it, but it’s true. I’d say a quarter of the book is from the late-’80s/early-’90s and most of it is from ‘99-on.

Which is still a long time to be working on a book.

Yeah, yeah. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time on these. It’s interesting, because I do a lot of commercial work where the deadline is a week to do a page or two of comics. With these strips I’ve been very vigilant about trying to get all of the details right, in terms of being faithful to the dead author and faithful to the on-going comic strip. It’s a weird balancing act and the longer I do it, the more I wonder about the process. But I’m still fascinated by the results. People seem to be able to hook into it, in terms of approaching it as a reader. I like the idea of making comics that people who don’t necessarily read comics can wrap their heads around.

Was it initially intended as a takeoff of those old Classics Illustrated books?

Yeah, a few different things happened. Certainly I was inspired by the post-modern artists of the ’80s, and of course the cartoonists in and around RAW Magazine, who were playing with ideas of high and low art. I also remember reading an interview with P. Craig Russell in the ’80s about doing opera comics, which he’s been doing for decades. He made a remark—I can’t track down this quote and I would really love to–I think it was in The Comics Journal. He said something like, “you know, when you take the music out of an opera, it’s very different” [laughs].

Yes, that’s true, and so completely obvious–and yet people accept adaptations so naturally sometimes. They just assume they can be faithful or unfaithful. It’s amusing to me, because any adaptation is going to completely tear the guts out of the original version.

So I actually like playing with that idea — that any switch from one medium to another is going to to utterly and completely change the thing that you’re paying great homage to. I wanted to make something where you couldn’t help but be confronted by the absurdity of doing adaptations—doing a translation of the work.

Cartoon characters aside, do you think the move from prose to sequential art is as dramatic as taking the score out of an opera?

I think so. Yeah. I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t be. For instance, I love audio books, but even they’re not really the novel anymore. Once someone attaches their voice to a piece of literature, it adds another personality, and creates a different experience. I guess if you had Dickens reading Dickens it would be closer [laughs]. But that doesn’t happen too often.

The sound quality wouldn’t be great, I imagine.

No [laughs]. The wax cylinders didn’t sound great—I know they didn’t have wax cylinders yet—I hope you don’t get any e-mails about that.

From the Edison people.

Yes [laughs]. So the personality in comics is so important. I can get thrilled or nauseated just looking at certain artist’s ink lines. There’s such a personal touch involved, it can’t help but be totally different from the original author. Even a brilliant adaptation–and there are many–is going to be a whole new experience. I appreciate what Craig Russell does. I love people that have these obsessions and follow them through, which he totally does. It’s just as a quote, I remember hearing that and just thinking, ‘that’s the strangest thing I ever heard.’ Or maybe just the most obvious thing I ever heard.

But I can see why he’d have to tell people that, because a casual reader might think, “well, they’re wearing the same costumes—it’s the same thing, isn’t it?” Think of the Watchmen movie—well, let’s not go into that in too much detail—but that’s the perfect example of a film that’s playing slavish homage to its source material, while the viewer’s experience of it is entirely different in every possible way.

In your case, you’re attempting to pay homage while creating something that’s about as far from a literal adaptation as possible. Do you feel like you’re working in two entirely different directions at the same time?

Yeah, definitely. I think the more you slavishly try to do something that’s impossible, the more interesting the results are. You could say, “well, if I’m going to put a Batman character in Crime and Punishment, I can change the plot”–because once you introduce him, it changes so much already. But I really think the results are more fascinating if you say, “No, it has to be the same plot. I have to put this character in this situation and see what comes of it.” So by keeping as much of the dialogue and plot as possible, you can see how the new character changes your response to the themes and the narrative that already exist. And I think it makes for a funnier and sadder final product, if I just say, “I’m not going to do anything different.”

“I’m going to work within the parameters of this storyline, and I’m going to work within the parameters of this comics strip. I’m not going to deviate from them in any way that I can help.” And I think that constraints are really important to me, in terms of making interesting comics. Constraints are already in the boxes of every comic. So, every way I can find to keep me from making impulsive choices, I think makes the comic stronger.

[Continued in Part Two.]
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Featured artist

R. Sikoryak


MASTERPIECE COMICS starred review by Publishers Weekly

Updated July 21, 2009

Masterpiece Comics R. Sikoryak. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-897299-84-5

This slim but densely sly volume collects, at long last, 20 years of Sikoryak's classic lit/classic comics mashups. Blondie and Dagwood act out Genesis in “Blonde Eve”; Garfield tempts Jon into a deal with the devil in “Mephistofield”; and Batman turns into Raskol for a reworking of “Crime and Punishment.” What could be simple parody in other hands is elevated to multileveled artistry by Sikoryak's uncanny ability to mimic the line of artists from Winsor McCay through Jack Davis to Charles Schulz. He goes far beyond mere imitation to eerily inhabit the artistic sensibilities of a dozen cartoonists; the result is as funny as it is impressive. These retellings linger on the philosophical underpinnings of such tales; coupled with the allusions and baggage of these familiar cartoon characters, the crossovers take on a life of their own to become legitimate adaptations. For instance, Little Pearl in “Red Letter Day” features Marjorie Henderson Buell/John Stanley's Little Lulu characters in a note for note retelling of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, contrasting the grim Puritan narrative with the animated expressions of the Bueel/Stanley originals to cast the sin-obsessed settlers into even sharper relief. Readers who pick this up for the well-deserved laughter will get a bonus with the thoughtful metaphors. (Sept.)


Featured artist

R. Sikoryak


  R. Sikoryak hosts an event!

Updated December 7, 2007

Dixon Place presents...

Cartoon slide shows & other projected pictures
presented by a glittering array of artists, performers, graphic
novelists, & other characters.

Hosted by R. Sikoryak

Robbie Busch
Megan Montague Cash
Danny Hellman
Michael Kupperman
Jim Torok
Lauren R. Weinstein

Thursday, December 13
8 pm (doors open at 7:30 pm)

Dixon Place
258 Bowery, 2nd Fl, between Houston & Prince

Tickets: $12 or TDF; $10 student/senior

Advance tickets & more info:
(212) 219-0736

Featured artist

R. Sikoryak


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