September 12, 2014

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SPX Spotlight 2014: Noah Van Sciver is Everywhere (and that's a good thing!)

Welcome to another entry in the 2014 SPX Spotlight series!  For the next month, Panel Patter will be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at one of the best conventions, the Small Press ExpoYou can check out all of Panel Patter's spotlights for SPX from both this year and prior years here.

It feels weird writing up a spotlight for Noah and not talking about a new issue of Blammo, but there's enough good things from one of my favorite one-man anthologists going around this year, that it more than makes up for the lack of a new entry in the series.

It's actually Erica who wrote up the first-ever post here about Noah (you can find it here), but we're both big fans of the Denver-based creator with the brother who draws stuff for DC Comics.* Noah also designed the Panel Patter banner, and trust me, he wasn't given much to work with (I believe my entire guidance was "Make sure it features the name, beyond that, it's up to you."), so that's all him!

As a creator, Noah is at his best when he's writing about characters who aren't quite at their peak for some reason, Maybe it's their own self-doubt (as is the case of young Abraham Lincoln in The Hypo, which Fantagraphics might have at their table if Noah doesn't), their destructive nature (as we often see in Blammo protagonists), or because something is set against them (again, a common feature of Blammo stories). Noah is able to take broken people and make them so human that you can understand them, even if they go off in directions that are unpleasant or unforgivable.

Speaking of Blammo, one of the ways you can get some Noah Van Sciver goodness in your life is by picking up a collection of stories from the anthology series, Youth is Wasted, published by AdHouse Books. Chris should have them, if Noah doesn't. Gathering together mostly the more recent work, it's a great way to catch up on some of the amazing solo work Noah's done in the past few years, along with some older stuff that was still re-publishable. (Sadly, he's sold off too many old originals to reprint the strips.)

Looking for something newer? Well, unfortunately I wasn't able to get my copy of Slow Graffiti in time to do a review, but Noah calls it items culled from his sketchbook, which means that it's drawings and shorts, some of which I've seen from time to time when he's posted them online. He'll have these for a limited time at his table, as it's a one-time only print run of 200. If you're a fan of Van Sciver, you'd better act fast to pick up this one.

Meanwhile, Noah was also a part of the first Oily bundle in 2014 with The Lizard Laughed, about a man seeking out the father who wasn't a part of his life. When he finds him, the dad has a completely separate world and the grown child is left wondering why he was left out of it. Full of purposefully awkward moments and a climax in which the son must make a choice whether or not to change both their lives forever, it's a textbook Noah Van Sciver story, with two broken people trying to see if their lives can be patched or not. If you are a fan of his Blammo work, make sure you try to get this one from Chuck or Noah, if they have a copy.

Last but certainly not least, Noah also recently took to trying his hand at diary comics. Published by 2D Cloud, I Don't Hate Your Guts shows Noah working at Panera and Kilgore, starting a new relationship, and of course, reading/drawing comics. Drawn between the end of February and into March, the mini covers Van Sciver's life in 9-panel grids for the most part, with Noah moving across them scene to scene.

These are not as technically brilliant as the detailed, intricate linework we're used to from Noah, because of their daily nature, so it's down to the basic elements, with coloring that does more with shade than in capturing things as they actually look. What they lack in terms of art is more than made up for in getting to see Noah's life as he sees it, whether it's quality time with his cat, arguing at work, or just walking around. (I should also note that Noah working in quick lines is still better drawn than a ton of mini-comics I've read over the years.)

It's really hard to read some parts of I Don't Hate Your Guts, not because it's a bad comic, but because I consider Noah a friend, and seeing him struggle or talk about how he's only fulfilled by creating but he has to work to survive (something that's true for so many of us) really cuts to the quick. I want to reach through the page and sympathize, even if there's nothing I can do. But that's what makes for the best auto-biographical comics, right? Ones that make that close connection?

Noah is up for another Ignatz this year, for Blammo 8, and I really hope he wins. I'm pissed I won't be there to vote, but if you are going to be at SPX on Saturday, I urge you to check the box next to his name. There's a ton of great creators on the ballot this year, but Noah's one of the best and is worthy of your consideration and vote.

As you can see from this write-up, there are many ways to start reading or pick up the latest Noah Van Sciver book. He's a truly talented guy, and worth your time and $$ at the show this year.

Can't be at SPX? You can find Noah on the web here.

*Though they couldn't be more different, both do a great job with their chosen style of comics. If you pick up one of Ethan's books, you'll note the high quality of the work, in terms of superhero style. He just finished a digital-to-print Wonder Woman story with Gail Simone, and it was stellar, of course.