March 30, 2015

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Don't Confront Me With My Failures- a review of Love and Rockets New Stories #7

Love and Rockets New Stories No. 7
Written and Drawn by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
Published by Fantagraphic Books

I don't know if I want Maggie and Hopey to grow up. These punk darlings of the 1980s are now the middle aged lost children of 2015 and maybe that cuts just a little bit too close to home for me. That's a story I know personally but maybe Jaime Hernandez has always reflected his characters back at me. Love and Rockets has always been there, a staple of comic shop racks and a badge of honor that I couldn't claim until about 10 years ago. Since I was a kid, I've known Maggie and Hopey like you know your buddies' older sister and her friends. You get the stories of teenage rebellion and coolness second hand, living vicariously through the stories and memories of others but never experiencing those adventures yourself. Even still for me, their punk days exist as legends that I know about more than stories that I know intimately because I was there.

I know the Maggie and Hopey that are older women; the Mags that was never able to quite put life together the way that she wanted and the Hopey who became a teacher and a mother. Their love is still legendary but it's these women, whose lives look more like mine does now through all of the the fumbling and the uncertainty, who are the ones I've grown up with. Love and Rockets New Stories No. 7 sees them return to Hoppers, the scene of so much laughter and tears, and not for the first time. We've already visited those ghosts with Maggie. This time, Jaime prepares us for a reunion, a chance to capture that old magic one more time. And that's what Maggie seems to be hoping for as well. Back then, it looked like it was Maggie + Hopey 4ever and maybe it still is but we have to define "4ever" differently.

Just like his brother, Gilbert is returning to the scenes of so many crimes. But with Killer still in Palomar, he's looking at this familiar place with new eyes. Killer sees Palomar as part of the history of Luba, her grandmother. For Killer just like the reader, there is nostalgia wrapped up in the setting. Maggie and Hopey have history but Palomar is history, something a modern girl would think of as a much simpler, less advanced piece of her family's background. In his stories of Killer and Fritz Jr., Gilbert creates these echoes of the past. It's still there and it's still talking to us through these children of Luba, Chelo and everyone we knew so long ago. Like Jaime's story, Gilbert's is a reunion but it's our reunion with the past that we're seeing reflected back at us.

Even when both brothers tell their one-off stories in this volume, there’s a sense of the characters running from their past. This issue of the comic is full of characters who are trying to move on but are stuck with their ideas and perceptions of events that have already happened. Jaime’ Princess AnimaUs and Tonta stories both are tales of characters seeking escape from the past while Gilbert’s stories tries to contextualize their own place among all of the previous Gilbert stories. Part of the richness of the characters and settings both brothers use is the depth of their personalities. Both work within these full narratives that continue and grow their past narratives so they develop their own continuity. It’s not a strict timeline-driven continuity but story-driven connectedness between their tales. It’s how we see the Maggie and Hopey or Killer of 2015 and reflect back on the Maggie and Hopey or Palomar of 1989.

Maybe as it is lost too much in the past, Love and Rockets New Stories No. 7 is a sad comic (see that cover.) We want Gilbert and Jaime to be punk again and their elements of that verve in this book. Jaime’s “Princess AnimaUs” and Gilbert’s “The Magic Voyage of Aladdin” are great fantasies by both cartoonists that throw off the restraint found in their more character driven pieces. But as we return to the characters we know the history of, both creators continue to remind us that is what the past is; it’s history. Maggie and Hopey were the great love story but they’re both older now. Palomar was this magical place but it’s changed and adapted with the rest of the world. The great thing is that Love and Rockets isn’t stuck in time; it’s not telling the same stories over and over. Its characters have been allowed to grow up, learn and develop. The rebellious punks of yesterday are the teachers and mechanics of today.

March 29, 2015

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Series Review: The Double Life of Miranda Turner

Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by George Kambadais
Published by Monkeybrain

Miranda Turner is trying to do the right thing (she thinks). Her sister Lindy, formerly the superhero known as The Cat, has been found murdered and now her ghost is haunting Miranda. Miranda is left to don the mantle of The Cat and uncover the truth behind her sister's death. But there's a problem. Miranda has no superpowers, isn't particularly good at solving mysteries, and, when Lindy's superhero friends find out what's going on, she's almost certainly going to be stopped. To make matters worse, whoever killed Lindy now has The Cat's superpowers.

The Double Life of Miranda Turner is fun. It's reminiscent of early 2000s cartoon shows like Codename: Kids Next Door. The villains are hokey and brightly colored. They do odd "evil" acts like inundating the city with Legos. Miranda is clearly a bit of a klutz. Even when she's succeeding, it's not really very elegant or easily done. So, the battles are more like oddly choreographed playground fights. It's light-hearted and enjoyable.

The drawings are simply rendered. The color is vivid, but it often lacks in detail. It makes up for this in a sense of whimsy. The more simplistic drawings allow the story to seem less far-fetched. It makes the murder-mystery/revenge storyline fun as opposed to dark.

However, I thought that the story struggles. I've read the six single issues currently available and the story is both slow to build and reluctant to explain some of its more basic facts, like why Miranda has decided to take on her sister's role, a question neither answered or really acknowledged until issue 4. Personally, I found it odd and a bit distracting.

The story has a villain-of-the-week feel to it. The story will often jump-cut to battles with villains who aren't introduced and aren't really ever talked about again. It's also got some seriously unsatisfactory plot holes, like how so few people know Lindy died, let alone why the superheros' guild who knows Lindy isn't talking to anyone and Lindy's identity isn't hip to what's going on. Eventually (in issue 3 or so) the story starts to come together, but I'm still not really sure what the end-game is or if some of these plot holes are going to be explained.

This all being said, it's fun, it's short, and it's a low-investment story. The Double Life of Miranda Turner has some fun aesthetics and some pleasant humor to it. It certainly was entertaining to read.

March 27, 2015

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Weekend Pattering For March 27, 2015-- Comics That Don't Look Like Me

** After the horrible week last week, there are things this week that just continued the crapfest that seems to be March (more on that later) but as if people were trying to counter program news, there we a few good things that were happening.  This Io9 story about the new female Thor selling more copies per issue than the old male Thor is maybe a step in the right direction when we're talking about mainstream superhero comics.  Of course, articles like this just kind of assume that superhero comics equals all of comics and don't even acknowledge the great work that has been done by female cartoonists outside of the Marvel/DC/Image/Dark Horse/IDW realm of influence.  Heck, when you get beyond the whole Diamond sphere of influence, there's a ton of great work that's being done by a diverse pool of creators that we actually rarely see in the direct market realm.

Getting back to the Io9 article, there's a complete lack of introspection on why this is happening.  Is it because the lead character is female?  Is it a sign of the ever increasing health of the direct market?  Is it that it's just a good comic, better than Jason Aaron's previous and very traditional take on the character?  There is a diversity of character, story and creator that is growing in mainstream comics and it is allowing more non-traditional approaches to superheroes to thrive right now.  It's not pandering; it's not political correctness.  And to a large extent, I'll be generous and say it's not a corporate decision made to drive bottom line profits.

A lot of credit may be due to Matt Fraction and David Aja.  Their Hawkeye opened the door a few years ago to Marvel and DC looking at unconventional approaches to superheroes that served an often unwanted customer base.  There's nothing greatly diverse about their Hawkeye but Fraction and Aja's approach opened the door for books like the new Batgirl, Ms. Marvel, She Hulk and a lot of DC's upcoming new summer comic books.  As these unconventional superheroes have gradually established themselves over the past couple of years, they've been far more welcoming to those legendary "new readers" than any jumping on point that Marvel and DC have tried to do on their established, continuity laden titles.

So Thor is now selling more.  That's great.  I'm personally enjoying it but I wonder what that audience looks like and how it looks different that the Thor audience from two years ago.  And if it is different, I hope that comic publishers continue to publish books for them, to show them all of the great work that's being being done throughout the comic landscape.

Welcome new readers.  I'm actually starting to believe that you exist.

** In the bad news of the week, Indiana's governor signed a law that allows for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers based off of their religious beliefs.  There have been a lot of comic/pop culture shows that seem to have started developing in Indiana in the past few years but GenCon is the one that has been most vocal about their displeasure in the law and their intent to start looking to relocate their convention if this law is allowed to continue.

And we think the way we treat people in comics is bad?  Here's a whole state that's allowing for discrimination.  And it's not the first that's tried or succeeded in doing this.  I'm scared to see how far this can go in this country.

When did "compassion" become a inappropriate term?

** Arthur Ransom is a British artist who doesn't get nearly enough recognition here in the states.  Here's the beginning of a small series of questions with Ransom.  Even if you don't read the interview questions, just look at some of that art.

** Always reblog Jim Steranko's Outland adaptation.

** Whit Taylor's Passing continues at Darling Sleeper.

** Our own Rob Kirby posts his THEM comic.

** I'm not really that much into Valiant Comics right now so this article from Tech Times on why it's a great time to get into Valiant Comics actually seems a bit misguided to me.  I've pondered trying to read Valiant series (I even bought that Humble Bundle last year that was full of their comics) but the first two point just seem kind of whack?  There's something for everybody? It's easy to dive in?  I guess if you're looking for action/adventure and that's all you want, then the article is spot on.  

** Panelleers doing their Panelling thing this week.  
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Jem and the Holograms #1 is Truly Outrageous

Jem and the Holograms #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Sophie Campbell
Colored by M. Victoria Robado
Lettered by Robbie Robbins
IDW Publishing

Jem is a quintessentially 80's property; colorful glam-rock headlined by a hologram.  I wasn't a huge fan as a kid but even I know that Jem was the lead singer of a rock in' band, and of course that she is truly outrageous, truly, truly, truly outrageous.  Jem and the Holograms #1 serves as a nice introduction (or reintroduction) to the world of these characters, giving them an emotional depth I didn't expect. Though it serves mostly as a setup issue, it's got enough of a hook for an interested reader to come back; not to mention, gorgeous art.

I enjoyed this issue. It's not quite as action-packed as I was expecting, but I think it works as a setup issue. We're introduced to Jerrica, her sister Kimber, and their foster sisters Aja and Shana who have a band - The Holograms. They're talented, only it's not going so well. Jerrica's a great singer and songwriter but she just gets overtaken with fear whenever she's performing for an audience.  This first issue is essentially divided up into two parts - the first part is at the studio in the Holograms' unsuccessful attempt to record a demo video, and second part of the issue which takes place back at their home.

It's a really interesting storytelling choice that the team makes here; the first part of the issue is very grounded (actually kind of a sad story). It's clear Jerrica is struggling with her fear of performance and the comic doesn't shy away from that.   Similarly, the story is very upfront about the emotions and opinions of the other band members.  They love Jerrica and want to be supportive, but if this band isn't going to work, they might just want to move on to something else.  But then the issue takes a turn for the fantastical and exciting when Jerrica makes her way home though a rainy afternoon. She makes a remarkable discovery that won't be all that surprising if you ever watched the TV show. It's enough to say that Jerrica feels like she's found a way to manage her fears and keep the band together.  By starting with Jerrica (and the Holograms) at her and their lowest point, Thompson and Campbell are giving us real stakes in these characters. My sense is that this series will have a lot of fun, crazy, exciting musical and scifi moments, but by giving the story an emotional foundation, they establish some real stakes.

But I don't want you thinking this a huge downer of a first issue. It's not, and a big part of what brings this issue a sense of fun and excitement and playfulness is the art from Sophie Campbell with colors from M. Victoria Robado.  I wasn't overly familiar with Campbell's work before this comic, but I was highly impressed with this issue, particularly with regard to character design and facial expression. In a number of instances, the backgrounds are pretty spare or are just plain colors.  That's where Robado's great work comes in. In the initial scenes, what would be spare scenes in a studio instead become these dreamlike, psychedelic explosions of color that convey the glam-punk nature of the music, and contrast with how Jerrica is feeling. Throughout the issue, Robado's coloring is big and distinctive and brings that sense of glam where it's appropriate, and a worn, lived in sense to the other parts of the story. One particularly nice touch is when there's some tensions between Kimber and Aja, as the tensions keep rising, the background color keeps getting darker and more intense. It's a clever touch.

Campbell's greatest contribution among many in this issue is in designing some of the most instantly memorable, expressive characters I've seen in a comic in a while.  Each of the main characters looks completely different and like they have specific, real, recognizable body types (with something of a manga influence in big, oversized, emotive eyes). I appreciate the effort comic creators take to address representation; it's a great feeling to be able to personally identify with a character in a story.  Campbell's facial acting (as seen above) is highly expressive and effectively conveys the sense of big, exaggerated (but very real) emotions in the story.  Jerrica's sadness here is so palpable, you're relieved when Kimber comes out to check on her. But the above panel is also an excellent example of the care Campbell takes to convey body language in this issue. You might expect Kimber to come out and give Jerrica a hug (God knows she could use one), but she doesn't - Kimber is dealing with her own complicated feelings and part of that is frustration with her sister, and that's nicely conveyed in Kimber's body language that portrays her own guarded feelings and sense of self-preservation.

I like the message in this story; these are four young women who love each other and are looking out for one another, but they're also struggling with fulfilling their own disparate dreams and interests and they're managing that conflict (and it's also great to see more and more mainstream comics led by women both in the story and in the creative team).  This was a more emptionally intense comic than I was expecting, but I think will appeal to a lot of people. It's also clear that the fun in Jem and The Holograms is just getting started.

March 24, 2015


Kinski by Gabriel Hardman

Written and Illustrated by Gabriel Hardman
Published by Image Comics (originally digitally by Monkeybrain)

Things aren't going that well for Joe. His job is on the line, but it's easier to focus on a random, lost dog that he quickly names Kinski. When that focus turns into an unhealthy obsession, the crumbling pillars holding up Joe's life begin to crumble in a story that will tug at any animal lover's sleeve.

Originally published digitally through Monkeybrain, Kinski is a great character study piece from one of my favorite creators, Gabriel Hardman. Joe is likable from the start, and you want things to go well for him. As he makes bad decision after bad decision, it's easy to wince or to want to shout "No! Don't do it!" at Joe, before he makes a terrible mistake. Hardman walks a fine line on this, between having the reader want to root for Joe, and being angry with him for certain choices, which seem grounded more in selfishness than in saving a dog that may not be in the best of hands. Ultimately, however, we're meant to emphasize with Joe, and as the story plays out, it becomes clear that while he was misguided, he's not a bad person.

That's what makes this one work so well, too. If Joe is too abrasive, we'd want him to fail, so there'd be no drama as he chases the dog into an unfriendly trailer park or gets evicted because he can't hold a job. He wavers on the edge of being sympathetic just enough so that when Hardman decides to redeem him at the end of the narrative, a reader does not feel cheated. It is a plot that could end badly or positively for Joe, and Hardman opts for the latter. (I do wonder if any drafts of the plot had it going the other way.)

Naturally, Kinski is amazing from a visual perspective. Hardman's linework is as strong as ever, and in black and white, you can see them in great detail. I loved how Hardman used different techniques, often on the same page. One scene, on the road, featured thick brush smears for clouds, a ziptone style for some of the shading, thick blacks for the power lines, and thin detailed work for the car, road lines, and other details.

A storyboard artist, Hardman is an expert at layouts, especially in splash scenes. Two particularly strong ones here are the introduction of the trailer park and junkyard. In the first instance, we get a sense of perspective, because Joe and his friend are in the foreground, while the park itself stretches off into the distance, with mountains in the backdrop. The trailers are set so close together, it's almost claustrophobic, yet they don't all look alike. This is even stronger in the junkyard, where a careful eye could make out the general models of the old cars.

In addition to the layouts, Hardman does a great job with the positioning and reactions of characters. There's definite time and care taken to think about how a person might stand when confronted, how they might look after a few drinks, or the way eyes open wide when someone makes an act of desperation. Hardman's people act within the comic, they don't merely take up space. They frown, they smile, they show distaste. It's something that really registers with me, because while it's (relatively) easy to put figures on the page, it's another thing entirely to have them do what they should be doing in any given situation. It's also nice to see Hardman use a variety of body shapes, clothing, and other little touches that add to the realism.

And then there's Kinski, the dog.  He's adorable. Sleek, with changing tones depending on the lighting, he emotes ever-so-subtly in each appearance. It's clear that Hardman loves animals, and it shows. While Kinski doesn't see a lot of screen time, each appearance puts him front and center.

The only real narrative weakness is that the supporting characters are mostly scenery, used to reflect Joe's traits or set up a scene. His boss is only focused on the job, but has a brief moment of caring. His co-worker tells him obsessing over the dog is a bad idea, then walks away. The waitress is a lovely woman in a bad relationship. The trailer park has a mean dude who immediately hates Joe. None of them get any chance to build from their usage. They're all used quite well, but it does mean that whether or not you like Kinski is going to be based entirely on how you feel about Joe.

Kinski is a great character study with amazing illustration. It was a lot of fun to read, and anyone who's ever loved an animal will definitely feel their heart strings tugged in this enjoyable graphic novel.

March 23, 2015

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Panel Patter Quick Hits: Jacamon/Matz, Joff Winterhart, and Bernie McGovern

Hope your Monday is off to a great start! Here's the Panel Patter team talking about some great comics. We'll lead off with a book that re-started James down the comic path..

The Killer Vol. 1
Written by Luc Jacomon
Illustrated by Matz
 Archaia Publishing

When I was first getting back into comics around 2008 (after an almost 20 year absence), one of the first books I read was The Killer. It really broadened my notion of what a comic could be, showing me a world that was way more interesting and hard-edged than the superhero comics I remembered (and given that the comic is French, it also gave me a look at a non-American point of view). Looking at vol. 1 again for the first time in close to eight years, and given the time since then that I've spent thinking critically about comics, it actually reads even better than I remember.

The Killer tells the story of an unnamed hired killer, entirely through first person narration. In the first volume of the story, the reader learns all about this killer's history, his methodology, and his world view (in addition to seeing his methodical life start to crack). For an action-oriented story, it's pretty philosophical. The killer has a pretty cynical, hard-edged view of life and he doesn't think much of the rich people he typically kills, or (for that matter) the poor. He sees us as selfish, oppressive and hypocritical, which in turn makes it easier for him to do what he does.

In this first volume, we learn that he's got a plan to do one or two more big jobs and then he's going to retire to a little beachfront property in Venezuela. Unfortunately for him, things go sideways. Fortunately for readers, this is a great hard edged series for fans of crime stories, and is the first of several volumes.  (Review by James Kaplan)

Days of the Bagnold Summer
Joff Winterhart
Published by Random House UK

It’s a shame that the thing almost everyone knows about British comics is The Snowman. From the limited amount of Raymond Briggs that I’ve been able to get my hands on, I know that he’s great at camouflaging melancholy, dark humor, even emotional devastation, in light-hearted illustrations and sweet characters - a very British mode that resonates with me powerfully. Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart doesn’t go quite that far, but it occupies a similar emotional space. It’s the tale of a mother and son forced to spend the summer together after the son’s estranged father asks him not to come to Florida as previously planned, as his new wife is having a baby. The son is entering teenager-hood, a social misfit but basically a good kid, nursing his self-loathing as teenagers do - his best friend’s a jerk, he thinks his mom is dumb, no one understands him boohoohoo. His mother  is a lumpy, dumpy, lonely librarian who entertains dreams of something more but doesn’t do anything to make them happen -- she’s accepted her semi-pathetic fate. But she loves her son tremendously, and is at a loss for how to show that in light of his classic teenage rejection of anything that smacks of an interest in his life.

Days of the Bagnold Summer is a short and simple book, but it speaks volumes in the space between the small dilemmas and separate reveries of mother and son -- there’s an unspoken understanding in the underwhelming life they’ve spent together, and when things get hard (as they inevitably must in family life) this connection carries them through -- and you get the sense that it always will. It all sounds very dramatic -- it’s not written or drawn that way at all. Instead, it’s drawn in a gently scribbly style that emphasizes the awkwardness and dreariness of the Bagnolds and the inertia of their situation. I picked up this book expecting it to be nothing much but it really got to me -- its Briggisian, British mopiness belies a story with universal appeal and a more literary soul than most comics this brief manage to muster. (Review by Emilia Packard)

Written and Illustrated by Bernie McGovern

Everyone has demons. Not everyone is able to rid themselves of them. DemonGunz collects the first 11 issues of Bernie McGovern’s DemonGun and DemonDusts minicomics, exploring his first few months of sobriety after ten years of alcoholism. He examines how his life and creative process changed as he looks inside and realizes who and what he became. It is bizarre and conceptual, sad, touching, and often both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The art is strange – mostly solid linework, but McGovern experiments with form and style throughout the book, not wanting to stay with one for too long. There are times when the book feels like a companion piece – it makes more sense with the unknown context of McGovern’s personal life, and is full of references to his other works. Despite this, it is still meaningful, beautiful in the reawakening that comes with a clear mind – like a flower emerging from ashes. DemonGunz is the kind of work that should be read and should be shared, and would be particularly useful to anyone who has considered their own creative process, or has ever (or ever known someone who has) struggled with addiction. (Review by Guy Thomas)

March 22, 2015

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Help Push the Curls Kickstarter over the Top!

Long time Panel Pal Carolyn Belefski is in the home stretch of her Kickstarter to publish a collection of her webcomic, Curls, a newspaper strip-style series that's been given favorable comparisons to Cul-de-Sac and other similar strips.

Carolyn is a prolific creator (often co-writing with Joe Carabeo, though not for Curls), with comics in various anthologies, including Magic Bullet, which Carolyn edited for several issues. She also more recently did comics work for the White House. Carolyn was also a part of the tribute work for Cul-de-Sac when its author had health issues.

Curls follows the adventures of a small cast, primarily a young woman who interacts with the others in comedic ways, as shown in the sample strips above and below. It's the kind of daily humor that you primarily think of from black and white newspapers, but is also found on the web, if you are of a mind to look. I'm not an expert on the genre, but I know plenty of people who think that Carolyn's work is some of the best in that genre, and if you are a fan of similar strips, but have not yet tried Curls, you are in for a treat.

Here's Carolyn's description of the series:
Curls is a comic strip written and drawn by Carolyn Belefski featuring a gal named Curls who dreams of adventurous situations that come to play in real-life with a gang of her animal friends and a giant piece of toast. The purpose of this Kickstarter is to collect every strip into a book which will allow readers to see the evolution of Curls—from a university newspaper to an award-nominated comic strip. The book will also include never-before-seen extras, including sketches and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the creation process.
The Curls characters have human connections, but they live in their own world where they participate in turtle derby races, wear ice cream cones on their head as a fashion statement, and get fantastic ideas while brushing their teeth (or smell like onions if they don’t). They visually turn into Manga style after sipping bubble tea, get captured by giant fish, and dream of being able to fly. If these ideas sound like a world you’d like to be a part of then take a chance to discover Curls and pledge to the Curls Kickstarter by clicking the green button.

Carolyn's Kickstarter tiers range from getting early access to a song related to the strip (for $5), buttons (at the $25 level), and the book itself of course, which is $35 for the collected edition. That may seem on the high side, but you also get all of the lower tier items, so it's really $35 for the book-song-button-patch-wallpaper combo. That's a neat way to entice people to pledge at a slightly higher level for your main item. There are of course higher options, including $100 for Carolyn to design you an online avatar and $150 to appear in the comic itself.

As of this writing, Carolyn is just shy of her goal, and she has only a few more days to reach the modest $5,000 she is asking for. If you are a fan of newspaper-style comics, check out her Kickstarter and consider making a pledge to get this great project funded.

You can find the Curls Kickstarter here!

March 21, 2015

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Mark Your Calendars: Portland Zine Symposium is July 18/19th (Tabling Open Now!)

As we move closer to Con Season kicking into high gear, it's time for the zine and mini-comic minded followers of Panel Patter to mark their calendars to attend the Portland Zine Symposium, held in Anchorage, Alaska Portland, Oregon each year.

This will be the 15th edition of the Symposium, and it's going be held July 18th and 19th, with a theme of "Tools of the Trade." The official image for the Symposium will be released soon. Once again, it will be held at the Ambridge Events Center, which is located just on the other side of the river from downtown, on the Eastern shore, and only a few blocks from the Convention Center, making it extremely easy to access from all areas of the city via mass transit or bike.

The Portland Zine Symposium features a Safer Spaces policy, and is committed to being friendly to all people, providing a welcoming environment. It also has a ton of great zinesters and mini-comics folks, just waiting to trade with you or purchase their work, if you prefer. Tablers come from all over, not just the Portland area, including Washington, California, and even further away, like the Midwest.

Speaking of tabling, registration is open now, and spaces are filling fast. As of this writing, registration is about half full, and it's only been open for a few hours. So if you want to go, you should get your application in now. Applications at this point are first come, first served, but there is a review to ensure that everyone meets the safer spaces policies--and is actually tabling with zine/mini-comics. Individual creators and distros are welcomed!

I find that smaller (relatively speaking, given that this is one of the bigger zine fests in the US) fests are where I find things more to my taste in terms of independent comics and zines. That's why my show list for this year is Linework NW, this show, and Short Run as the anchors, with others as time allows.

So if you are a fan (or just interested in finding out more about) zines and the mini-comics that have a zine feel to them, make sure you plan to come to the Portland Zine Symposium in July!

March 20, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for March 20th, 2015-- the myth of "Faux Outrage"

** This week has kind of sucked, hasn't it.  There was Erik Larsen accusing Marvel and DC of placating a "vocal minority" with their recent (and actually kind of awesome) costume redesigns. If nothing else, Larsen's asinine comments should make us all glad that Eric Stephenson is the tastemaker at Image. And then there was DC's quite tonedeaf Joker variant cover for an issue of Batgirl.  It was a good drawing, just horribly inappropriate for that book. Just to keep the ball rolling even if it doesn't seem like this was picked up that much by the comic media, Ron Wimberly posted a comic on The Nib about when he was asked to lighten the skin tone of a dark skinned woman. I don't know if that story makes Marvel seem discriminatory or clueless. Finally, there was the whole Chris Sims/Valerie D'Orazio situation.  I was there for a lot of that and no one was too kind to Valerie.  Not all of them are getting a chance to write the X-Men but a lot of people should probably be apologizing.  We won't even go into the whole SPX table lottery situation.

In other words, it wasn't a good week. It was a week where the white maleness of comics just looked ugly.

And now towards the end of the week, people are trying to write this all off as some kind of false outrage, like it doesn't count because it doesn't affect them.

I don't know if I believe anymore that anything can be "faux outrage," a term that was briefly used on a podcast that I happen to love and respect.  This term was used to brush off any desire or responsibility to talk about these events while they dived normally into the comics that they read this week. These are issues that are affecting people emotionally and financially.  These are issues that show just how protected some people are while others are left high and dry.  These are issues that demonstrate injustices that still exist in the year 2015.  Heidi McDonald tried to explain what the late 2000s were like in the comics blogosphere and it sounds like she's writing about things that took place decades ago.  She was writing about events that took place only 6 or 7 years ago and in that time, things haven't gotten that much better around the lifestyle of comic fans or creators.  Woo hoo! Comics may be in some kind of reinvigorated golden age when we talk about content but when we talk about they way we treat each other, I don't know if we've learned anything at all.

But I guess as long as the latest issue of The Avengers was the bomb, we're all good.  Aren't we?

It wasn't just on the podcast.  I get the feeling from a lot of corners whenever any controversy erupts that we just want to write it off as "hater's gonna hate."  I've seen it on Twitter and Facebook.  And that probably isn't going to change anything.  As long as we accept the culture, this is going to be the culture we're going to have.

And I don't know if I want that.  In fact, I know I don't.

You don't have to have feelings or thoughts about every injustice that exists as it happens but brushing past it as something that's inconsequential or, even worse yet, something you just want to ignore just leaves the door open for things to be repeated.  At the same time, we've also got to accept the idea that people can change.  People can learn from their mistakes and that's what we want.  If we want to think that any outrage or discussion can lead to things getting better, we've got to accept that people can change and that they can become better.  If not, then we are living with false anger that's just yelling into the wind. If we want change, why aren't we willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and allow for the possibility that our anger and frustration can lead to growth and development.

Anger is good.  Outrage is good.  But so is forgiveness and acceptance and growth.

But what do I know?  Brian Wood is still getting work even if I can't read his stuff any more.  That whole situation just made all of his stuff (which I really enjoyed up to that point) just seem icky to me now.  Maybe someday I'll be able to practice what I preach.

** Next week, we'll be back to the usual link blogging here but I just don't feel like that this week.

** All the Pattering this week that was fit to Patter:

March 19, 2015

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Interview with Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Since it came out about a year ago, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer has been one of the most celebrated comics in recent memory.  It’s the first comic book to win the Caldecott Award. As the story of two young girls, not quite children anymore but not yet adults, witnessing supposed grown ups messing up their own lives, This One Summer focuses in on that confusing stage of growing up where nothing makes sense anymore.  It’s that point in growing up where you realize that your parents don’t necessarily know any more than you do.  Set one step away from reality as Rose and Wendy spend their summer vacation in a small cottage town, this book almost painfully brings the lives of these kids, their parents and a group of locals into such sharp focus as we see that life is as confusing to you when you’re a daughter trying to navigate your way through adolescence or a mother trying to protect yourself from pain.  

Jillian and Mariko recently took time to answer a few questions for Panel Patter.

Panel Patter: It's been almost a year since This One Summer has come out. How has the reaction to it surprised you?
Jillian Tamaki: I try not to predict or anticipate any specific reaction. I just hope people like the book and think it's a good effort. That's all I can do.

Mariko Tamaki: I think the reaction we've had from organizations like the ALA and the Governor General's have been a nice surprise.  It's nice to have your work recognized by a body of people whose focus in on looking at these works in a bigger context.  I've spent quite a bit of time with librarians and teachers this past few months, their positive response to the work has felt really good.
PP: This One Summer is your second book together, after 2008’s Skim. How did you two begin working together on comic books?
JT: Skim was initially a small, 24-page floppy. A friend of Mariko's mentioned publishing a small comic series in conjunction with her magazine, Kiss Machine, and it seemed like a doable activity.
PP: Mariko, what made this story a graphic novel to work on with Jillian on rather than writing it as a novel?
MT: It's hard to say, exactly, what it is that makes a good graphic novel.  Muskoka is a really pretty place so that was something that came to mind.  I think I also thought overall that this would be a good project to collaborate on.
PP: Jillian, what was it about this story that made you want to draw it?
JT: Mariko wrote it and we were going to do another book together. Not very glamorous.

PP: Can you talk about how you work together? Mariko is the writer and Jillian is the artist but how did the collaboration work on this book? How did it change since Skim?
MT: I think this book involved more collaboration in part because it was built less on captions (less on an overall running voiceover).  So there was more work we did figuring out the story together on this book.

PP: None of the characters, no matter how young or old they are, seem to have this life figured out. Both Rose and her mother are as confused about what they're supposed to think and do as the other is. Are the adults in this book any wiser than the kids or are they just older?
JT: I just think that very few people have it 'all figured out'... it's more about how you react and deal with life's slings-and-arrows that make all the difference. It's a coming-of-age story for many ages, maybe.
PP: I loved the way that the horror movies were worked into the story, opening up the girls to new experiences. How is that reflected in the rest of the story?
MT: There's a bit of a parallel between horror movies and the scary unknownness of adulthood in TOS.  Mostly the horror movies are there because when I was a kid it seemed like suddenly we were no longer watching "The Secret of NIMH" and I was expected to watch JAWS.  Which then made swimming in the fresh waters of Georgian Bay totally terrifying.

PP: Do you think it's correct to classify this as a YA book? I'm a long way out of that demographic and I found so much in this book to dig into and identify with. Do you even think in terms of classifications like YA?
JT: What gets classified as YA and what doesn't seems like more of an art than a science to me. PersonallyI don't try to cater to a "young" audience, although I realize that some of the themes I am interested in naturally appeal to people that age.
PP: Jillian, can you talk a bit about your style and influences? The way you move through these intimate personal stories and then open up these large spreads that feel like those those summer moments where time stands still amaze me. There’s a timelessness in the art, where moments are stretched into forever that captures the wonders of summer.
JT: Thanks. I am just concerned with capturing the mood and sensory experience. While also being true to what Mariko intends for the scene and character. I was inspired by the place itself, which is based on Georgian Bay, Ontario.

PP: Mariko, how is writing a comic book like This One Summer different than writing a novel?
MT: It involves considerably less writing.   Also it's a process where the final product is something you create with someone else.
PP: For both of you, what is something that the other did in This One Summer that just astonished you? Any particular line of dialogue or panel that just stands out as something wonderful that the other one did.
JT: I liked the Grandma character.
MT: I love the scene at Saint Marie Among the Hurons.
PP: What were the challenges for you while doing this story? What parts of the story pushed you beyond what you were expecting or what you thought you were capable of?
MT: I think this process was mostly challenging because it was a tremendous amount of work on Jillian's part.  I wouldn't say it was any more challenging in terms of the writing.
PP: With the acclaim and the award that This One Summer has gotten, what’s been the best experience you’ve had with it?
JT: I think the best feeling is getting the book in the mail for the first time. It makes your work tangible.

MT: I love doing signings and readings and hearing from people who've read the book.
PP: What’s next for each of you?
JT: Two very different books. Super Mutant Magic Academy, my collected webcomic, will be published in April, as will Sex Coven, a 30-page standalone I'm putting out with Youth in Decline.

MT: I have a YA novel coming out with Roaring Brook/Penguin Canada, Saving Montgomery Sole, about unsolved mysteries, frozen yogurt and California, which will be out in Winter 2016.  And I'm working on a few other things here and there.

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