August 23, 2013

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SPX Spotlight 2013: Matt Dembicki and Andrew Cohen

Welcome to another entry in the 2013 SPX Spotlight series!  For the next month, I'll be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at the best convention, the Small Press Expo.  You can check out all of my spotlights for SPX from both this year and prior years here.

Two of my favorite mini-comics creators are working together again, this time on a biography of Lincoln Beachy, which Cohen says is the first chapter in the story of a "forgotten American superstar," which he promises will have Edwardian fashion and a million gallons of Niagra Falls water. 

I'm pretty sure that's figurative. Otherwise, best to bring along an extra bucket or two with you to SPX.

Dembicki and Cohen are familiar collaborators with each other. Cohen appears in both of Dembicki's excellent anthologies, Trickster (a collection of Native American myths, with each story featuring a Native American involved in its retelling) and District Comics (a trove of hidden stories about Washington, DC, also highly recommended). In addition, the two worked together on another history mini-comic (The Brewmaster's Castle, which I reviewed here) and also on an online comic, Spadefoot.

The pairing works well, as Dembicki's straightforward approach to writing dovetails nicely with Cohen's art skills, which, while fully able to be cartoonish (see Dr. W, reviewed here), also do a great job of presenting realistic history. Cohen's mini featuring Irish immigrants, A Mutual Feeling, nailed the setting and sentiments of the time period. I haven't seen this newest work yet, but I see no reason why it won't be in the same vein.

If you are a fan of comics set in or about historical periods, then you definitely need to check out not only this mini, but the larger District Comics, which features stories by Dembicki, Cohen, and other Panel Patter spotlight creators, such as Rafer Roberts, Curls Studio, and Troy Jeffrey-Allen. 

If you are more into lighthearted comics that play with conventions, then Cohen's Dr. W, a fourth-wall destroying feature where the panels are an active part of the characters' world, should be right up your alley. Those who like comics based on music definitely will want to investigate Howzit Funnies, Cohen's blues-inspired work. I read and liked the first issue and am excited to read more.

In addition to curating anthologies and working on mini-comics, Dembicki also is the author of the amazing nature documentary-as-comic Xoc (review here), the story of a shark and its dangerous journey across the ocean. Avoiding the pitfalls of many animal comics, Dembicki's work sticks to the facts and doesn't try to humanize the creatures at all, though they do speak out their animal instincts.

Both Dembicki and Cohen also contribute to the DC Conspiracy-led tabloid anthology, Magic Bullet (reviews here, here, here, and here), which feature not only their talents but those of a ton of amazing creators throughout the DC/Maryland/VA area, along with a few friends who are a bit more spread out. That's where I first met Dr. W, whose antics play quite well across the entire page of a newspaper. Meanwhile, Dembicki's stories vary from touching remembrances to quirky uses of cockroaches.

It's not breaking the fourth wall to tell me you're missing SPX, but it is disappointing. But you can find some of Matt and Andrew's work at the DC Conspiracy store, and Matt's anthologies are in finer bookstores across the region, often in the local section.