August 21, 2012

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SPX Spotlight 2012: Box Brown and Retrofit Comics


Welcome to another entry in my SPX Spotlight 2012!  You can find all of my SPX Spotlight posts, including those from past years, by clicking here.

While I'm not a fan of every single release from this publisher that debuted last year around this time, I think the concept is excellent.  Why not a rotating slate of indie comic creators of a wide variety of talents and styles under one roof, publishing monthly?  The idea is so awesome, and I'm happy to see that it's still going strong after 12 months.  Created and overseen by Box Brown, Retrofit is even expanding into specials, such as a tribute to Garo manga.

The artists who have worked under the Retrofit banner include James Kochalka, Colleen Frakes, and Noah Van Sciver, which means you have Eisner winners, Xeric recipients, and Ignatz winners in the stable.  That's extremely impressive to me, given you'd expect to have to go to a big indie like Fantagraphics to have that level of recognized creators.

My taste tends to run more to the Frakes/Forsman spectrum of Retrofit, but for those who like their comics with a rough edge to them (I usually describe this as those who take the limits Robert Crumb established and dance about three yards past it), creators such as Ian Harker are also a part of the group.  Like other small publishers, Brown looks for and finds the best of a variety of styles and gets them to do a mini-comic for him that retail for $5.00 each.

Brown himself is no slouch, either.  Working in both print and webcomics, his style falls somewhere in the middle, able to work complex philosophy and crude humor together in a way that shows his own varied artistic interests and influences.  Box was recently heavily involved in the Whole Story project, offering collections of some of his projects, and I was extremely impressed with his work.  Being both irreverent and deep at the same time and with a strong interest in the complexity of religions of all kinds, when you visit the Retrofit table, don't forget to look into Brown's work as well.

For SPX this year, Brown will hopefully have a new mini, Killman, that he describes as "giant robot suits and a guy fighting against the universe itself," which sounds awesome.  Hopefully Doctor Doom will let it pass customs, as I hear it's coming from Latveria over to the States.  I'm sure he'll also have a few of his own older minis as well.

Retrofit will have several new and new-ish items for the show:

  • SP7, the manga tribute I mentioned above, as alt-comix artists take their stab at right to left work.  I kickstarted this one, but if you missed your chance, you can get a copy at the show.
  • Flocks #1, which deals with sexuality and growing up Christian, by L. Nichols.  This is one I really want to pick up.  Reading various accounts of dealing with identity is a focus of mine, and the medium of comics really can bring things home in a way prose cannot.
  • New Sludge City by Brendan Leach.  Box tells me this is about a dystopian Manhattan, which sounds like fun.
In addition, Box will be bringing along whatever back issues he has of Retrofit, and he notes that several of the creators he's published will be there (including the award-winning trio mentioned earlier) so if he's out of a copy, they might have them at their tables.

Retrofit Comics is an awesome small publisher taking a new approach to a monthly comic publishing schedule.  If you can't make SPX, you can read more about it here.