SPX Spotlight: You'll Fall for the Koyama Press Fall Lineup

It's another entry in Panel Patter's not Patented SPX Spotlight feature! We're ready to provide you with some great pre-show coverage for one of the best comic shows in the United States! In a show with nearly 700 exhibitors, we'll help you find some of the best! You can read all our SPX Spotlights from 2017 and prior shows here.

Year in and year out, Koyama Press is one of my favorite publishers, because like 2D Cloud, they've no problem moving into experimental territory, and yet can also work with more traditional comics easily. Anchored by creators like Michael DeForge, Koyama puts out quality content, often from creators I've never heard of before, but quickly learn to appreciate.

Here's a partial list of creators who have worked with Koyama in recent years:

Alex Schubert, Ben Sears, Cathy G Johnson, Dustin Harbin, Eleanor Davis, John Martz, Julia Wertz, Patrick Kyle, Renee French--the list goes on and on.

We're big fans here at Panel Patter, and you can see our past reviews of their work here, many of which we've done as Spotlights for SPX, where I first encountered them. One of the great things about SPX is that it's often where publishers debut their newest books, and Koyama always has a great new supply for its readers, old and new. Here's a little sampling of this year's Fall lineup. All will be available at SPX, and all of the creators will be at the show, with the exception of GG, so you can even meet the creators involved! I was not able to read through each of these books in their entirety, so my commentary is based on what I was able to read in time to put this post together. I'm looking forward to getting to know these books better after the rush of Rose City/SPX is over.

Everywhere Disappeared by Patrick Kyle
A collection of short stories by Kyle, whose work really digs into absurdist territory while also making the reader think about what he's trying to say. One story features a man trapped and experimented on, who seems not to understand the cruelty of his life. As we watch him comically try to do normal activities despite his distorted features (he's not that far from a doodle of a person), Kyle invites us to ponder his situation even as we uncomfortably laugh. In another story, Dracula frets, and his almost abstract being, trapped within solid black and white walls, reminds me quite a bit of latter-day Ditko. It's really strange and wonderful, just at the edge of experiment and structure.

Language Barrier by Hannah K Lee
Lee takes on a variety of subjects in this collection of zines and comics she's done over the years. One of my favorites is a lovely abstract design with the words "I love your work" and "who are you" back to back. In other areas, she makes fun of emoji culture (no one tell Chelsea Manning about this), the way we put shoes in a prominent part of our lives, and how texts can dehumanize a person, even as they're meant to be erotic. It's really stunning work, and exactly the type of book I'd expect to see from Koyama.

Old Ground by Noel Freibert
Old Ground is fucked up. There's no other way to describe it. I can't even begin to tell you what it's about, but as the pages merge and characters appear and disappear (such as two talking corpses that are trapped in their coffins), flowing like a Rorschach Test, there's a hypnotic nature that keeps you turning the page to see how everything interacts from scene to scene. It's not for the squeamish or those who don't like blasphemy, as it has a high percentage of gross-out moments and an entire sequence that takes aim at Jesus. The figure work morphs and changes, becoming almost a thing alive at times, and the heavy inks really make each image dramatic. This isn't my usual cup of tea, but I like it because it's not your usual "try to offend" comic, even as it uses some of the tropes of that genre.

Anti-Gone by Connor Willumsen
The ambiguous nature of reality is the focus of this one, which features two protagonists who go from scene to scene, encountering characters that function as NPCs that aren't exactly friendly. The two are awkward, almost strangers and yet they're given an uncomfortable intimacy. The panel structure serves to highlight this as well, alternating between wide open scenes, incomplete sets, and sometimes small, narrow, almost claustrophobic panel work. Being honest, this was my least favorite of the books, but I think it might require a closer reading than I was able to give it at this time.

Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino
Another collection of minis turned into a book, this one features very personal reflections about relationships and isn't lurid at all, despite the title. There's some nudity, but the stories aren't about that so much as the power dynamics that go into couples or supporting each other or even the cruelty that can happen over time. Foster-Dimino's linework is very similar to others who do work like this, such as Mari Naomi, and the way in which she approaches relationships, panel structures, and the ability to stop using strict reality work very well for these stories.

I'm Not Here by GG
This story of a person trying to find themselves while still being a part of their old life hits very close to home for me, as I struggled long and hard with being my own person versus the person those around expected me to be. And, like me, the protagonist takes lots of photos. She's trying to find her place, while time slips away, as we see in the slow repetition that is featured on many pages. Taking the time to show her cutting an avocado or slipping into sleep show how every moment is proving that she has to do something soon, or she may be as lost as undeveloped film. It's a very static art style, however, and that did keep me at a distance I wish I'd been able to overcome. GG's work doesn't look like Phil Noto, but it has that same "moments in time" theme going that works for a lot of people but not me personally. I was more interested in the plot than the art.

In addition to these books, Koyama will also have a good chunk of their back catalog, and of course they've got an Eisner nominee in Keiler Roberts’ Sunburning, which is nominated for Best Outstanding Comic. has been nominated for Outstanding Comic.

Koyama Press has a lot of great work that will strike your fancy and imagination, and I hope you'll check them out at the show.

Can't make SPX? Koyama's website is here, and all good comic stores should have their work for you!