August 30, 2013

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SPX Spotlight 2013: Retrofit Comics

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.

It's hard to believe that Box Brown's Retrofit label is over two years old now, but that's the case. I couldn't be happier about the fact that this mini-comics publisher is still going strong. Anything that promotes getting more mini-comics out there is a good thing, and I'm a big fan of the subscription model, as regular Panel Patter readers know.

It also doesn't hurt that Box is a great guy, and does wonderful work in the field of comics himself. (Look for Box's spotlight coming up soon!)

I was a charter member of Retrofit, though I prefer now to pick my comics ala carte, because I have the luxury of living just down the street from a Retrofit comics distributor, the excellent Atomic Books. I quickly found the quality of Box's selections to be top notch, with work from several of my favorites, including James Kochalka (review here) and Colleen Frakes (review here). Even the ones that explore the Crumb-like end of the spectrum, while not to my taste, were of high quality for the sub-genre of mini-comics that they came from.

In 2012, Retrofit was all over my favorite mini-comics list (you can see it here), with another favorite creator, Noah Van Sciver, joining John Martz's Gold Star and L. Nichols' Flocks. There were a few others that just missed, too.

The quality and variety of Retrofit Comics is pretty amazing for such a small press. Box manages to find some of the best people to work with, such as the creators I've named above. Other names to work under the imprint include Charles Forsman of Oily Comics and the upcoming End of the Fucking World from Fantagraphics, Josh Bayer, and Jason Turner. Retrofit did an alt-manga tribute (Secret Prison 7), too, with creators showing their love of the crazier styles of Eastern comics.

Each of these creators brings their own style and vision to the work. You might get philosophy with Kochalka, a slow burn with Martz, and viscous lashing out at popular culture with Bayer. On the other hand, some are very introspective, like Nichols or Tom Hart. Unpleasant characters abound in Van Sciver and Forsman. The art ranges from the wild abstracts of Bayer to the realistic sketchiness of Van Sciver and the more cartoon-like work of Kochalka and Frakes. Variety is the key with Retrofit and what makes it so cool as a publisher.

Now it's 2013 and Retrofit is moving into its Fall subscription drive. You are able to order subscriptions right at SPX and pick up the first of the new editions, Picnic Ruined by Roman Muradov. It's 56 pages and Box describes it as follows:
In wispy lines and washes Picnic Ruined is a dreamlike journey through bookstores and parks of nighttime San Francisco, a humorous meditation on flawed memories, obscure writers, and the anatomy of inanimate objects. Roman Muradov's work has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times and numerous other publications.
In addition, there's a set of cards of 14 famous cartoonists, drawn by Cole Closser, Melissa Mendes, John Pham, Jordan Crane, Steven Weissman and others. I'm really looking forward to seeing those! Box didn't tell me, but I imagine there'll be a few copies of back issues available two, depending on what he has handy.

Several Retrofit creators will be at SPX this year: Noah Van Sciver, Colleen Frakes, L. Nichols, Charles Forsman, Josh Bayer, Simon Moreton, John Martz, Tom Hart, Brendan Leach, Corrine Mucha, and Joe Decie (WHEW!).  So if you are already a fan of Retrofit (and good for you!), then take a minute to look these folks up, too. If they're part of Retrofit, you can be sure they do good work. (Several of these folks are getting spotlights or have one already, if you need further convincing.)

Getting your cyborg butler retrofitted and can't make SPX? Man, are you missing out! But you can always find and buy Retrofit comics at its store, including picking up a Fall 2013 subscription!