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Washington City Paper's "gifts for nerds" lists Ware, Tomine, Clowes, and Tamaki

Updated January 15, 2013

International Ink: Gift Ideas for Comics Nerds (Part 1 of 2)
Posted by Mike Rhode on Nov. 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm
In which we take a look at a great big pile of review copies of comic books, cartoons, and graphic novels.

Somehow with the turn of the millennium, a weird cartoon switcheroo occurred, and alternative cartoonists became more mainstream than mainstream cartoonists. Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine are regulars in the New Yorker. Ivan Brunetti edits textbooks on cartooning for Yale. Illustrations by Tom Gauld, Lille Carre, and Jillian Tamaki routinely appear in the New York Times.

Tomine and Clowes' recent, lovely art books can be found at reasonable prices: New York Drawings (Drawn & Quarterly, $30) reprints the illustrations that Tomine has done for the New Yorker, along with additional illustrations of the city. The book is almost textless, but the art is all beautiful full color. The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, edited by Alvin Buenaventura (Abrams ComicArts, $40), is a catalog to accompany an exhibit of his work that is scheduled to arrive at the Corcoran in 2013. This book covers Clowes' entire career, even delving into unfinished sketches, layouts, and color guides alongside finished art. The text, meanwhile, explores movies based on Clowes' works, and includes essays by Chris Ware and book designer Chip Kidd.

Ware's Building Stories has been getting loads of attention this fall, but consider the academic collection, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David M. Ball and Martha B. Kuhlman (University Press of Mississippi, $55 hardcover, $28 paperback). Overall, its 15 essays are a little dense—but that's OK for this relatively difficult artist. Howard University professor Marc Singer even plunks down a 16-page essay on him.
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Featured artist

Jillian Tamaki


  Profile on Jillian Tamaki

Updated November 20, 2012

Let Jillian Tamaki's gorgeously inked illustrations sweep you off your feet
by James Cartwright, Thursday 30 August 2012

If you’re not familiar with Jillian Tamaki’s work then we suggest you stop what you’re doing and get acquainted pretty damn quick. The Alberta native has been making huge waves in the illustration industry for a good six or seven years now and we feel we’ve probably let you all down by not showing her work here previously.

In Jillian’s portfolio the brush is king and her exquisite inked lines demonstrate a skilled draftsmanship that’s not seen often enough among regularly commissioned illustrators. Thematically she’s as varied as her clients, though every image she creates maintains a playful sense of intangibility; even when grounded firmly in a rainy city her characters seem to be elsewhere. She also draws animals like an absolute pro.

Now a teacher at the prestigious School of Visual Arts in New York she still finds time to pack in a mammoth amount of editorial commissions as well as various ongoing graphic novel projects with her cousin Mariko Tamaki. Impressive stuff!
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Featured artist

Jillian Tamaki

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Indoor Voice

Jillian Tamaki's superhuman webcomic

Updated June 14, 2012

Webcomic SuperMutant Magic Academy proves high school angst is the same everywhere

When the students of Hogwarts and Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters aren't fighting for survival, they're battling ennui, insecurity, and their own hormones. Jillian Tamaki's SuperMutant Magic Academy captures all of the teen angst you'll find at a school for magical mutants — or any school at all.
Jillian Tamaki illustrated the moodiness of an all-girls' school in Skim, the graphic novel written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki. In her cheekily titled webcomic, Jillian Tamaki takes the reigns, sketching out her own characters with their own high school woes. Although the students of SMMA may take spells and potions classes, and some of them sport scales and fur over their skin, their concerns are largely mundane. Marsha is secretly in love with her best friend, Wendy the feminist Kitsune. Lizard-girl Trixie is boy-crazy. Trevor vents his ample frustrations through his laser-shooting eyeballs. Hypercephalic Gemma wants to be valued for her intellectual prowess, and gets frustrated when other folks don't live up to her academic expectations.

But Tamaki doesn't forget the mystical nature of her superpowered prep school. There are surprising parodies of supernatural high school conventions (like Harry Potter recast as an ordinary housecat), and a lot of moments that prove that magic isn't always all it's cracked up to be. But the most important thing about the individual SMMA comics is that they're relatable, even when they're magical. We're not asked to wonder how all that melancholy will turn these high schoolers into heroes; we're just asked to accept that all teenagers have these small moments of strangely amusing tragedy.

Perhaps the character whose powers are most at the forefront is Everlasting Boy, the teen who cannot die. He seems to have the worst of SMMA lot. After all, he might be the one teenager who can never leave high school.
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Featured artist

Jillian Tamaki


  Brian Ralph and others at Brooklyn Indie Comics Showcase

Updated January 10, 2012

December 6, 2011
Heidi MacDonald

As for comics, the standout was a new issue of Kramers Ergot, the groundbreaking comics anthology last seen in 2008 as a table-sized $150 book. The new edition is more compact but retains much of the creative line up, including Gabrielle Bell, Frank Santoro and editor Sammy Harkham— and many were there to sign.

While tightly curated by the organizers to reflect the art comix side of the business, the show drew a bevy of fans who happily went shopping at just about every table—among them Simpsons creator Matt Groening who was given as many books as he purchased by star struck young cartoonists.

While big statements about where comics are going as an artform will await some digestion of the varied offerings at the show, Brian Ralph, himself a member of the legendary Fort Thunder collective and currently a teacher at SCAD and author of this year’s Daybreak declared it the best comics show he had ever been to. Questioned at a raucous afterparty held in one of the participants loft Ralph observed “Something awesome was at every table.”

Check out the link for a picture of Adrian Tomine and Jillian Tamaki signing at the D&Q table!
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Featured artists

Gabrielle Bell
Jillian Tamaki
Brian Ralph

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Montreal Review of Books reviews INDOOR VOICE

Updated December 14, 2010

Indoor Voice
Reviewed by Lori Callaghan

Hirsute women and a disdain for city life permeate the pages of Jillian Tamaki's Indoor Voice. This comic scrapbook is so varied and disjointed at times that it feels like the artist took out a drawer full of random doodles, dumped them on the desk and made a book out of them. You can, however, learn a lot about a person by examining the images and words they casually put to paper, the bits of themselves that just seem to fall out.

In Indoor Voice, for instance, there is a palpable tension between the city life Tamaki obviously feels trapped in and the communion with nature she romanticizes. A series of four-panel comic strips dubbed "Brooklyn Follies" shows such things as a woman complaining to a bus driver about someone jerking off, a guy sleeping on a bench who wakes to take a leak on a fence, and a guide to understanding the honks of NYC cars. In the author's notes, Tamaki says that it took her three years to get comfortable living in New York City. "Now when I see people behaving badly in public, as New Yorkers are wont to do, I proclaim loudly, 'Aww, Jersus, Cawmonn!' instead of going home and crying."

The image of a strong older woman, often naked and hairy, who is aligned with the natural rhythms of the world, comes up numerous times. She is a stoic figure who is untouched by the anxieties of metropolitan life. These and the wildlife drawings seem to have a serene quality that juxtaposes keenly with the anger and frustration found in the urban illustrations.

This collection is an awkward introduction to an artist, but it shows a fair amount of range and has personality. It's a snapshot look at an artist's process; one that sparks an interest to see what her more refined, finished products look like.

Lori Callaghan is a visual arts critic for The Gazette and The Rover.
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Featured artist

Jillian Tamaki

           Featured product

Indoor Voice

  The Torontoist reviews JILLIAN TAMAKI's INDOOR VOICE

Updated October 21, 2010

Jillian Tamaki Uses Her Indoor Voice

By Dave Howard
October 13, 2010

Jillian Tamaki is a successful Canadian illustrator living in New York City whose work has won her such prestigious clients as Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. She is also the visual artist behind Skim, the acclaimed coming-of-age graphic novel she created with her cousin Mariko Tamaki (a successful author in her own right) and published by Groundwood Books.

The real strength of Skim is how writer Mariko’s authentic elliptical dialogue works so successfully with Jillian’s visual representation of unspoken body language and complex facial expressions. Both elements speak volumes about the characters’ inner worlds without needing to actually come out and say much. Still, I found myself marveling again and again at Jillian’s natural visual storytelling powers and her obvious skill for expressing the human form in the natural world. Take a look as some samples from the publisher’s website here—the drawings just pull you in while the panel layout effortlessly leads you along.

I was pretty excited to hear Jillian Tamaki was publishing Indoor Voice as part of Drawn and Quarterly’s Petit Livre, a series of informal sketchbooks that collect a single artist’s drawings, comics, and art. I certainly expected to like Indoor Voice but not as much as I did. Tamaki’s comics are loose and silly, yet sharp-witted and observant. There’s a keen sense of the dark and depressing balanced by humour and self-mockery. The sketches are loose and personal, and they make you want to draw. Here and there an occasional knockout water colour reminds you of Tamaki’s depth of talent, but the petite livre format favours the more approachable, loose work.

There’s a great interview about the basics of Tamaki’s character-driven approach to illustration at Illustration Friday, as well as here at an older blog named Girl Art Index, where Tamaki describes her love of Charles Dickens. Another longer interview worth reading is at Sequential Tart here. Here’s a quote from that interview:

“For Skim, editing dialogue and the logistics were new to me, but when it came down to the drawing, it was about the same as doing illustration,” she says. “With the illustration, I tend to be very narrative-conscious. The details are what make the thing special or powerful. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of talking heads, something I don’t do in illustration. I do character development, and that’s a real strength of Mariko.”

Who published her first? Montreal-based Andy Brown of Conundrum Press of course (see Torontoist’s interview with Andy Brown here), who reprinted Tamaki’s City of Champions zine in 2006. Why can’t we have more cartoonists like this?
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Featured artist

Jillian Tamaki

           Featured product

Indoor Voice

Kenton Smith reviews INDOOR VOICE for the Winnipeg Free Press

Updated October 5, 2010

Canadian-born, raised artist's sketches amuse, entertain

by Kenton Smith

THIS slender graphic novel isn't an art book of the coffee-table standard. It's compact, has no gloss, limited colour and perhaps no truly "finished" artwork. It's all sketches, drawings and roughly rendered comics.

That doesn't necessarily mean anything. After all, the sketch has been recognized has possessing its own intrinsic value since the Renaissance.
And Canadian-born and raised Jill Tamaki is a gifted artist. She's best known for drawing Skim, a graphic novel written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki. The book generated press over its Governor General's Award nomination, the first for a comic.
Yet Tamaki -- Jill, that is -- got snubbed: only cousin Mariko's authorship was recognized. That prompted Canadian cartoonist titans Seth (George Sprott) and Chester Brown (Louis Riel) to pen an open letter of protest, championing the equal contribution of the artist in a comic's creation.
Certainly Tamaki (the artist) deserved the nod: Skim's power and delicate tone is enabled immeasurably by her moody ink drawings, which are much closer in spirit to fine art than conventional graphica.

Also, consider her striking work in such magazines as The New Yorker, Esquire and The Walrus. She may reside in Brooklyn but Tamaki remains one of this country's most outstanding young illustrators.
Many of the drawings in Indoor Voice also showcase her adroitness with pen and ink, capturing the same gloomy esthetic as in Skim. Tamaki also repeatedly displays a flair for the grotesque.

The best parts are her sketchy comics work: the first page features a classic six-panel page, untitled, concerning nothing more than a mother trying to get her kid to slow down on the sidewalk. It's structured as a classic gag sequence, and leads to a droll punchline.
Equally amusing is He said I could be a model, which considers the phrase in multiple contexts. Three NYC honks, part of several Brooklyn Follies, is also hilarious, as is A Brief History of Feminist Thought.
One three-panel sequence involving a car and a blinking red dashboard light is almost impossible to describe with justice -- the impact is purely visual, and so delightfully simple in concept. Then there's a sequence with a lost pipe that boasts an unexpected twist ending.

Yet it's Four Simple Sex Scenes that shows up the book's shortcomings. Here's a series of narratives that suffer precisely from a lack of completeness: a more finished, sensual effect is precisely what's required for what are essentially works of condensed erotica.
So is Indoor Voice worthwhile? For art, graphics and comics enthusiasts, there's material of interest, for certain. Yet for the uninitiated, the more polished Skim is probably a better book-form introduction to Tamaki's distinguished work.

Kenton Smith is a Winnipeg-based writer, critic and comics enthusiast.
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Featured artist

Jillian Tamaki

           Featured product

Indoor Voice

  The anticipation mounts for WILSON and INDOOR VOICE says The National Post

Updated January 19, 2010

The Most Anticipated Books of 2010

by Mark Medley

Challenges abound when compiling a list of the most anticipated books of the coming year. The first problem is that it’s impossible to say for certain whether a book will be any good. We can recommend you check out Don DeLillo’s new novel when it hits stores next month, but, until we crack open the spine, we won’t know if it’s another Underworld or another Cosmopolis. Unlike movies, (most) books don’t have the luxury of a glossy two-minute trailer to excite readers, though perhaps you could get Ian McEwan to read passages from his new book over a rousing John Williams score, or hire one of those distinctive trailer voice-over men to hype Beatrice and Virgil as “by the author of Life of Pi and The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.” Or maybe not.

When it comes to books, keen readers must pore over publisher’s catalogues, reading too-earnest synopses that herald (seemingly) every book as “devastating” or “profound” or “a masterpiece of the highest order.” And even blurbs from other writers, who have (apparently) read the book and (apparently) like it enough to loan their name to the cover, have limited cachet.

Still, there are lots of books coming out these next few months that - based on the author, past work, an interesting synopses, or a chapter we’ve already read - are solid bets and should be great.

The first half of 2010 brings us new novels, poetry and short story collections from award winners (Peter Carey, Joan Thomas) and new voices (Miguel Syjuco, Eleanor Catton). The next Giller Prize or Griffin Prize winner may be hidden among the titles listed below.

Forget Iron Man 2, here’s what we’re really looking forward to in the first half of 2010:


• Andrew Kaufman - The Waterproof Bible (Random House/February) - Kaufman’s debut novel, 2003’s All My Friends Are Superheroes, was a cult hit. He returns with a novel about a young woman who (literally) cannot control her emotions, and a man coming to terms with the death of his wife.

• Rabindranath Maharaj - The Amazing Absorbing Boy (Knopf/February) - The under-appreciated author of A Perfect Pledge delivers a comic-tinged coming of age set in downtown Toronto. Think The Fortress of Solitude set in Regent Park.

• Joan Thomas - Curiosity (McClelland and Stewart/March) - It was only last year that Thomas won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book (Canada/Caribbean) for her novel Reading by Lightning. Her second novel is a fictionalized account of paleontologist Mary Anning, who discovered the first ichthyosaur skeleton - think of a giant dolphin - when she was only 12 years old.

• Dionne Brand - Ossuaries (McClelland & Stewart/March) - The first volume of poetry from Toronto’s Poet Laureate in five years.

• Adam Lewis Schroeder - In The Fabled East (Douglas & McIntyre/March) - One of Canada’s best young writers, Schroeder delivers his second novel, about a bureaucrat sent on a mission up the Mekong River to find an Army captain’s long lost mother. Shades of Joseph Conrad.

• Michael Lista - Bloom (House of Anansi/April) - This upstart young Montreal poet publishes his first collection, which chronicles a day in the life of Winnipeg scientist Louis Slotin, who helped develop the atomic bomb.

• Yann Martel - Beatrice and Virgil (Knopf Canada/April) - The biggest release of the spring. Martel attempts to follow-up his mega-selling Life of Pi (which won the Man Booker Prize and was recently named the National Post’s best Canadian book of the decade) with this story about a famous writer, a taxidermist, a monkey and a donkey.

• Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall - Ghosted (Random House of Canada/April) - This master of immersion journalism - his first book was Down To This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown - turns his attention to fiction with this novel about a young man who makes a living writing suicide notes. Yes please.

• Miguel Syjuco - Ilustrado (Hamish Hamilton Canada/April) - The only book coming out this spring to have already won a major award: the former Montreal Gazette copy editor won the Man Asian Award in 2008 for this novel about a famous Philippine author who’s found dead in the Hudson River.

• Jillian Tamaki - Indoor Voice (Drawn and Quarterly/April) - A new collection of sketches and comics from the acclaimed illustrator of Skim.

• Steven Heighton - Patient Frame (Anansi/April) and Every Lost Country (Knopf/April) - Kingston’s Steven Heighton is the busiest man of the spring. He’s releasing his first collection of poetry since 2004 and his first novel since 2005, about a group of mountain climbers who witness the murder of Tibetan refugees at the hands of Chinese border guards.

• Russell Smith - Girl Crazy (HarperCollins/April) - Canada’s foremost chronicler of urban affairs returns with a new novel about a community college instructor obsessed with a younger woman.

• Shawn Micallef - Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto (Coach House/May) - Micallef has been writing the “Stroll” column for Toronto’s Eye Weekly for years; this book collects and expands some of his favourite pieces. Better than visiting Toronto.

• Carole Enahoro - Doing Dangerously Well (Random House of Canada/May) - A darkly satirical novel about a water company exec looking to privatize an African river; Enahoro is one of Random House’s new faces of fiction for 2010.

• Eleanor Catton - The Rehearsal (McClelland and Stewart/May) - Debut from this hotshot young novelist - she’s like 24 years old - finally comes to Canada after much buzz abroad.

• Emily St. John Mandel - The Singer’s Gun (Unbridled Books/May) - If it seems like her debut, Last Night in Montreal, just hit bookstores, that’s because it only came out in June. She returns with a new novel about a young man trying to escape a life of crime.

• Peter Darbyshire - The Warhol Gang (HarperCollins Canada/May) - Darbyshire delivers his long-anticipated follow-up to Please, which won the ReLit Award. See Q&A.


• Sam Shepard - Day out of Days (Knopf/January) - A new volume of short fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actor and author.

• Joshua Ferris - The Unnamed (Reagan Arthur Books/January) - Ferris doesn’t follow-up his acclaimed and bestselling 2007 debut, Then We Came To The End, with another comic tale of office life, but rather a strange novel about a man who suffers from an unexplained illness which causes him, from time-to-time, to keep walking until he collapses of exhaustion.

• Don DeLillo - Point Omega (Scribner’s/February) - It’s been 12 years since Underworld, DeLillo’s last great work. Let’s hope his new short novel - about a filmmaker, a former scholar, and his daughter, living in the desert - is a return to form.

• Lionel Shriver - So Much For That (HarperCollins/February) - The author of the Orange Prize-winning We Need to Talk About Kevin returns with a novel about a man whose dream of retiring to Africa is put on hold when his wife develops cancer.

• Sam Lipsyte - The Ask (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/March) - Lipsyte’s last book, Home Land, about a young man chronicling his life via letters to his high school alumni newsletter, was a breakout hit. His new book is about a man given one last chance to keep his job at a university.

• Ian McEwan - Solar (Nan A. Talese/March) -- McEwan’s latest is about a Nobel Prize-winning physicist on a trip to Mexico City which may save his marriage, his career, and the world.

• Peter Carey - Parrot and Olivier in America (Random House of Canada/April) - There are two writers who have won the Man Booker Prize twice. Carey is one of them.

• Daniel Clowes - Wilson (Drawn and Quarterly/May) - A brand-new graphic novel from the man behind Ghost World about a middle-aged loner who discovers he has a teenage daughter.

• Philip Pullman - The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate/May) - We probably don’t need another retelling of the gospels. But the fact that this novel is written by Pullman, the author of the brilliant His Dark Materials trilogy, makes it one of the most anticipated publishing events of the season. Sure to ignite controversy.

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Featured artists

Jillian Tamaki
Daniel Clowes

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Indoor Voice

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