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Love That Bunch in stores now!: All Hail Aline Kominsky-Crumb

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{What follows is an edited version of my introduction for Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s launches in Montreal and Toronto}

This may seem unrelated, but as someone in comics, I get asked one question over and over again: did you read comics growing up? And yes, I did, but not in that maniacal way that makes everyone in comics feel not worthy when they haven‘t read the complete canon of comics.

So I won’t bore/horrify you with the details of which comics I read growing up, I will just start with what I feel is the first pivotal comic I acquired and consumed. As an adult living in the NYC’s East Village, while going to university in the mid-90s, I bought the iconic Twisted Sisters: a Collection of Bad Girl Art anthology. I recently took this book off the shelf and it split in two, so I guess I’m showing my age.

This paperback collection unknowingly set me on the path to Drawn & Quarterly 10 years later. This collection honestly blew my mind and I don’t know if while reading it, I really understood its importance in the way that I do now. Both its historical context, and its contemporary context at the time, and the influence it would eventually wield. I just remember being at the Tower Records, and seeing the self-portraits of female cartoonists and wanting to read it. In this collection, I read D+Q cartoonists such Julie Doucet, Debbie Drechsler, and Mary Fleener, as well as Carol Lay, Phoebe Gloeckner, and other female cartoonists, the one, and only Aline Kominsky-Crumb. It was edited by her friend Diane Noomin, and it was a follow-up of sorts to Aline and Diane’s original iconic comic of the same name from 1976.

The next time I came across Aline was the original out of print edition of the book we are launching tonight, Love that Bunch, which I found in NYC. And again, I was completely awestruck by how raw, unfiltered, and real Aline’s comics were. I was creeped out but enchanted; disturbed but fascinated. It’s not a lack of vanity that I find compelling about Aline’s work but the recognizing of her actual vanity in a simple straightforward way

Cut to a few years later, when I read her memoir Need More Love, that I basically became obsessed this book and with one thing-- whether or not the comics and stories Aline told were actually Aline. Or if it was a show. No one could be this honest, especially about her relationship with her husband, I thought.

Then about 7 years ago, I found myself alone at the Angouleme comics festival and walking down the aisle, I looked up and saw Aline sitting there by herself and I stopped in my tracks. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, and I gathered up my courage and introduced myself to her. She invited me out for a drink. And we spoke about many things, but the one thing that I remember from this evening is telling Aline how I had moved to Montreal and was struggling to learn French to which she told me that the surefire way to learn French is really easy: I should find a French lover. And she meant this. Then, I had the answer to my question of whether the Aline we see in her comics is really Aline if the honesty is real and I knew that it was.

This project has been in the works, in many forms, ever since that meeting, and it morphed into a new edition of Love that Bunch. Originally published in 1989, it has been out of print ever since. In fact, when preparing for our store event, my coworker Benjamin asked me “if it could be” that Aline had no books under her own name in the market. Yes, it can be. But it is no longer, and the new edition has a brand new 40-page story that sends chills down my spine.

Our edition also has stories from various WeirdosTwisted SistersPower Pak and more.

I visited Aline last Fall in France as we put the book to bed, and I got to sit down with her for the first time since that initial meeting 7 years ago, and I realized how big of a deal this was for her. And how this may be the last time she will have a book tour. (For the tour for Need More Love, the publisher went out of business at the same time as the tour.) And how she has never been accepted as a cartoonist in the company of her peers separate from her husband and how quite literally she has never met the many cartoonists and readers she has inspired. I also was able to hear her talk about how thrilled she was to read Julie Doucet’s work for the first time back when she was an editor (the best!) of Weirdo.

Now, of course, I understand Wimmin’s Comix. (And if you don't, get your hands on Fanta's wonderful Trina Robbins's edited collection above)  I have read Aline’s oeuvre many times now and I realize how significant these comics are, and this edition is, on my own life but also how much it influenced cartoonists and professionals in and around my age—such as Lauren Weinstein, Vanessa Davis, Leela Corman, and Jessica Campbell. The influence of Aline, as well as the other cartoonists from Wimmin’s Comix, are finally getting their due. 

I will admit that while editing this book I was nervous how the comics would be accepted 30-40 years later—not to mention the amount of side eye, grief, dismissals, and straight up shit Aline has received the past few decades for being the cartoonist spouse of a famous cartoonist. So I asked Hillary Chute to write an introduction, knowing she had written about Aline yet not realizing how deep her scholarship of Aline was until I read the stellar introduction she penned for our edition, it sums up every emotion I have ever read reading Bunch. I’m a bit embarrassed by that fact that I did not realize the depth of Hillary's research. Hillary featured Aline in her first book, Graphic Women, as well as an interview with Aline in her second book Outside the Box. She explores Aline’s work again in her fourth book, Why Comics?, which came out this year. And, one of the new stories in our edition, the story, “Of What Use is an Old Bunch” is from the academic journal Critical Inquiry that Hillary edited. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that we adore Aline so much. Hillary and I are of the same generation and we both bought that copy of Twisted Sisters and both of our copies have now split in half. 

It’s not often I get to spend quality time with cartoonists outside of a convention. I once spent a week with Yoshihiro Tatsumi in Los Angeles, and it remains one of my most cherished memories of my time at Drawn & Quarterly. This past month, Aline came to Montreal and I was able to spend a few days with her along with my pal Julia, including a five-hour train ride. 

A few highlights:

Hearing Hillary interview Aline with such knowledge and respect, using her research and insight into Aline’s work to highlight her importance as a cartoonist to the audience.

The next night, hearing comedian & writer Monica Heisey trace Aline’s comedic lineage to today’s female comedians.

Seeing how excited the D+Q staff (Tracy, Alison, Julia, Tom, Sruti, Rachel N., Rachel D, Courtney, Luke, Kate, Lauriane, Kennedy, Benjamin) was to meet Aline. Also shout out to Sam Tse, the gentleman breaking the 4th wall in the photo above (to the left side), who was the assistant editor on this book.

Going out for dinner in Montreal with Julie Doucet, whose monograph we are publishing this Fall,  Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet. Aline and Julie hadn’t seen each in 20 or more years. I can't really explain how singular it feels to be at D+Q rthe year, thse two books are coming out.

Having this repeated again in Toronto, when Aline and Chester Brown saw each other but had only met once in the Steve Solomon days of the Beguiling, as well as Jillian Tamaki, Ebony Flowers, Nick Maandag, and Joe Ollmann attending dinner to meet the one and only Aline. 

Seeing that the audiences in both Montreal and Toronto were almost entirely women. Here's a couple of superfans in Toronto.

Hearing writer and editor Serah-Marie McMahon tell Aline in Toronto “Aline, you have such a sense of clothing in your comics, I have never really come across this in comics.” Here's a photo of Serah-Marie with Joe Ollmann.

Just. Listening. To. Aline. Talk. Especially in the CBC: Q studio.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this tour and provided the space and the dialogue for Aline to reflect on her career, meet her peers, and her fans: Hillary Chute, Monica Heisey, Peggy Orenstein, Naomi Fry, Type Books, Green Apple Books, Word Books, Librairie D+Q, St Stephens in the Field Church, Housing Works, Bay Area Book Festival.