Tag: Nate Powell

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    March On!

    On November 16, 2016 March: Book 3 won a National Book Award. It’s the first graphic novel ever to receive this prestigious honor. And it doesn’t take long to see why it was worthy of such accolades.

    March Book 3

    For those unfamiliar, the March trilogy is Congressman John Lewis’ first hand account of his experiences on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. But it’s far from a dry history lesson. Rather, March is a powerful and stirring boots-on-the-ground look at the heroic figures and hard fought battles of the movement.

    Civil Rights in an Unconventional Medium

    The choice to tell this story in a comic book format is an unconventional one. However, almost from page one it becomes clear it was the right one. The stunning black and white art from Nate Powell conveys the intensity and passion of the scenes. You can feel each sequence viscerally from the terror and the violence of mob attacks to the passion of the speeches during the March on Washington.

    Powell’s command over the sequential art form makes the book compulsively readable. You’re swept up in this turbulent time in American history–even if you know the facts. Seeing history played out like this creates a breathless reading experience that pulses with emotion. It brings out a life and a beating heart that would be sorely missed in a history textbook.

    A First-Person Look at the Movement

    Another big impact is that the story is told from the perspective of John Lewis, a sitting member of the US Congress. He’s been a champion for equal rights since he was a teenager. This personal perspective creates great empathy with the reader. Often the importance of such historic events can be lost when they are shown in an objective and broad scope. But this is John Lewis’ story and through him it becomes the story of an entire movement.

    March Book 1

    The storytelling in March is another brilliant stroke by Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin. The three books are framed around Lewis preparing for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. While getting ready to leave his office, Lewis encounters a woman with her two sons. She is star struck by Lewis. He then recounts to them his days in the Civil Rights Movement. This creates the first person narration that will carry throughout all three books. Lewis’ warm and candid voice is a key to the success of this book. You feel his presence. It’s like you’re one of those children in that room being told this story.

    With Lewis as our protagonist in this sweeping story, March becomes as much memoir as it is history. We start with Lewis as a child. We follow the experiences and events he witnessed from a young age that created his passion and drive for equal rights. Through this focus we get another of the book’s great achievements–a rich humanity.

    A Human Portrayal of Historical Figures

    It’s often easy to cast historical figures as two dimensional characters. Their achievements and failures come to represent them more than their individual personalities or beliefs. In March, luminaries of the time are painted as very human figures. Martin Luther King was a resolute leader in the movement, but he also had fears and doubts about what was being done. Robert F. Kennedy sympathized with the movement, but felt his hands were tied by the rigidness of the political system.

    It’s in the moments of confusion or doubt that these real life characters come alive in this book. Although we know the outcome of the events, you can feel the fragile nature of what’s being built. There was no real roadmap for what these activists were doing. And while morally justified and committed to their cause, there’s no denying what they were doing was scary. And they could face terrible consequences.

    March Book 2

    One of the most powerful sequences occurs near the beginning of March Book 2. Following the violent outbursts during stand-ins at Tennessee movie theaters, the movement’s leadership comes together to discuss ending the protest. Lewis simply states, “We’re gonna march.” He repeats it again and again–despite the outcry from fellow organizers. This is the type of heroism portrayed throughout March. There were people fighting for what’s right despite the potential danger. This is really the type of heroics that comic books are built on. And it’s much more impactful to read a story of real people overcoming the societal pressures and their own fears to stand up for truth, justice, and the American way.

    The Movement’s Lasting Impact

    One of the most beautiful and moving parts of this story is the movement’s commitment to nonviolence. Such racially charged events like the ones recalled by Lewis obviously created an emotional boiling point.

    It would be understandable to see people lose control in these situations. Leaders such as Lewis and Dr. King knew change would only happen if the protests were peaceful. Understanding this from an academic standpoint is one thing, but it’s another to see the horrific and hateful acts of violence perpetrated against the members of the movement. It further demonstrates the strength, conviction and beliefs of people like John Lewis. And it clearly emphasizes why this movement was so special and impactful on history.

    March belongs among the ranks of Maus and Watchmen as one of the most important works in the comics medium. Beyond being a great piece of comic art, March has so much value as a history text. And it provides a relevant message about tolerance and peaceful protest.

    March Box Set

    It’s a book that reminds us how bad things once were and how far we still have to come. It doesn’t shy away from the horrors that occurred. But it also shines a bright light on the hard won victories of a passionate group of people who struggled to create a better world. It’s a work with limitless impact that will continue to educate and inspire generations to come.



    March, Published by IDW Publishing and Top Shelf Productions, Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Art by Nate Powell

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    You Choose The Best Comic Book of 2016

    Best comics of 2016

    A lot of amazing books have come out in 2016. With Marvel revitalizing their line, DC’s Rebirth, to so many independent and creator-owned books dominating the stands, 2016 has certainly been a comic book year to remember.

    With that in mind, the staff at TFAW took a look at sales numbers, fan buzz, and our personal favorites of the year to create a list of the 25 best comics of the year. Now we want you, our awesome customers, to vote on this list to decide definitively what the best books of 2016 are.

    Voting will take place from Jan 1st through Jan 31st, so head on over to our  Facebook page  and cast your vote. Let your voices be heard and recognize all these amazing creators and publishers for all their hard work.

    Superman Vol. 01 Son of Superman
    By: Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Patrick Gleason
    The New 52 Superman is dead, but hiding among us for years was the original Big Blue. Now, a world without a Superman is in desperate need for Clark to leave the good life on the farm with Lois raising their son. This story simultaneously brings Superman back to formula, but also takes him in a direction he’s never really been before.

    Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch
    By: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma
    Powerful and gut-wrenching, Bitch Planet continues to explore themes of patriarchy and non-compliance. A must read for SJWs, feminists, and people who truly appreciate comics as an artistic medium.

    Wonder Woman TPB Vol. 01 The Lies
    By: Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Matthew Clark
    Wonder Woman has been interpreted in many ways over her 75 year existence. Instead of trying to hide this, Greg Rucka’s approach is to embrace this to try and get to the real heart of who Wonder Woman is. Not just a great jumping on point for new readers, but a definitive take on the character that will hold true for years to come.

    Black Hammer Vol 1: Secret Origins
    By: Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart
    Black Hammer is another in a long line of grand ideas by one of comics brightest stars, Jeff Lemire. This book has a unique take on superheroes and the art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart instantly ensnares the reader.

    Rough Riders Vol. 1
    By: Adam Glass, Pat Oliffe
    History in the making! Teddy Roosevelt, Jack Johnson, Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison make up an American dream team engaged in an epic shadowy war! Monsters and Mayhem folks!

    The Mighty Thor Vol 1: Thunder in Her Veins
    By: Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman
    Marvel is changing things up by casting Dr. Jane Foster as the new Thor. The goddess of thunder shines in this series as she comes to grips with heroism and her own mortality. Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman are the perfect pairing. Also: Loki.

    Divinity II
    By: Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic
    After Abram came crashing home in Divinity vol 1. Spending his entire life in the depths of space, Divinity II tells the tale of Myshka. Still beliving in the Communist ideal. She intends to play a very real role in the return of Soviet glory

    Old Man Logan Vol 1: Berserker
    By: Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino
    What happens when an older, more gruff version of Wolverine comes to the main Marvel Universe? A whole lot of fighting. He’s on a mission to to prevent a terrible future from happening. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is breathtaking.

    Detective Comics Vol. 01 Rise of the Batmen
    By: James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Al Barrionuevo
    Batman is notorious for being a lone wolf (bat?), but he’s always had his family behind him. Now it’s time to take the Bat-Family to the next level. Lead by Batwoman, Batman puts together a team of Red Robin, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler, and Clayface to be ready for whatever threat comes Gotham’s way.

    Vision Vol 1: Little Worse Than Man
    By: Tom King, Kevin Walsh, Mike Del Mundo
    Vision has the perfect family: a wife, two kids, and a dog. Look elsewhere for over-the-top nonstop heroics; this book proves it’s the little moments that matter. Truly impeccable dialogue and top-notch art await!

    March Book 3
    By: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
    The third and final installment in civil rights activist John Lewis’ story in the battle for civil rights in the United States. 1963 was an incredibly turbulent time in America’s history, and John Lewis was not only in the middle of it, but a leader in getting us out of it, long before becoming a congressman. March will remind you there are real heroes in this world.

    Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol 1: Black Squadron
    By: Charles Soule, Phil Noto
    With crisp and clean art by Phil Noto, Poe Dameron is one of the most beautiful of Marvel’s new Star Wars comics. Charle Soule explores Dameron’s uncanny skills and matching bravado.

    Paper Girls Vol. 2
    By: Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang
    Continuing where Vol. 1 left off, the misfit group of paper girls from 1988 find themselves transported to present day. Our main characters are forced to look at who they are, and who they may…or may not become. This superstar team continues to tell one of the craziest sci-fi stories currently on the shelves, while staying focused on the heart of any good story, the characters.

    All New Wolverine Vol. 01 Four Sisters
    By: Tom Taylor, David Lopez, Bengal
    With the death of Logan, clone daughter Laura Kinney (X-23) steps up to be Wolverine and the best she is at what she does. This book is bloody, emotional, hilarious, and beautiful. This is one of those unique books that can present adult subjects in a way that people of all ages can understand. Clone or not, All-New Wolverine definitely has soul.

    Dept. H Vol. 1: Pressure
    By: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
    Not your average murder mystery! An in depth(see what I did there) story taking place on a deep sea research station. Family, lies, secrets and creatures make for a spectacular, well-paced adventure.

    Steven Universe & Crystal Gems Vol. 01
    By: Josceline Fenton, Chrystin Garland, Kat Leyh
    They are the Crystal Gems. They always save the day! If you think they can’t. Here is proof that they always find a way!

    Monstress Vol. 1
    By: Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
    A fascinating look at an alternate 1900’s Asia where monsters of god-like power are normal. Witness the journey of one teenage girl struggling to survive while trying to tame her own MONSTER.

    Black Panther Vol. 01 Nation Under Our Feet
    By: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze
    Wakanda under the microscope. On the brink of civil war, treason and terrorist attacks ensue in T’Challa’s homeland. Witness Black Panther fight to save his country from all fronts.

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Vol. 01
    By: Kyle Higgins, Jorge Corona, Goni Montes
    “It’s Morphin Time!” This fantastic new series starts after the Green with Evil Saga. Takes us through a different path from the show, one that keeps it at the top of my reading every month. Perfect for fans new and old.

    Saga Vol. 6
    By: Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
    Set three years after the end of Vol. 5, our story opens with Hazel in kindergarten. For a story that’s followed a family on the run through space since issue 1, Vol 6 shows them living a domestic and stationary life for the first time…and it doesn’t go too well for them. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to be a dominating power tag team.

    Sheriff Of Babylon Vol. 01 Bang Bang Bang
    By: Tom King, Mitch Gerads, John Paul Leon
    Currently known for his fantastic work on Batman, Tom King and Mitch Gerad’s The Sherriff of Babylon, is a suspenseful crime noir tale set in Bagdad circa 2003. King’s CIA experience in addition to Gerad’s life-like art style gives this series the accolades it deserves.

    Beauty Vol. 01
    By: Jason Hurley, Jeremy Haun
    The first STD that people actually WANT! In this world, The “Beauty”, transforms your body into its most beautiful version. People are literally dying to get it but the public is unaware of the side effects. Detectives Vaughn and Foster are on the case.

    Faith Vol. 01 Hollywood & Vine
    By: Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Jele Kevic-Djurdjevic
    Starting off as a side character in Harbinger back in 2014, we were given a full ongoing series of Faith Herbert this year. Written by the wonderful Jody Houser. This is a series meant for Fan-boys/girls, as Faith herself is as much of a geek as we are.

    Gotham Academy Vol. 03 Yearbook
    By: Brenden Fletcher, Moritat, Mingjue Helen Chen
    Our favorite students go back after their adventures last year, telling tales before everything went to chaos. Gotham Academy is an all-ages series perfectly suited for those wanting to move to Gotham, but are not old enough to drive there.

    Legend of Zelda Legendary Ed GN Vol. 01 Ocarina Time
    By: Akira Himekawa
    Viz does it again. While this is a reprint, if you’ve never read the Manga adaptation of the celebrated N64 game Ocarina of Time, this is a perfect time. Collecting vol 1 and 2, You get the complete tale.


    Honorable Mentions

    2016 had so many amazing titles that it was nearly impossible for us to narrow it down to 25. With that in mind, here are some honorable mentions of books that you should definitely check out. Odds are they made your own personal top 25.

    Batman Vol. 1 I Am Gotham
    By: Tom King, David Finch
    Gotham City has two new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl. With these super powered saviors doing what Batman can’t, is he really what Gotham City needs anymore?

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 04 Kissed Squirrel Liked It
    By: Ryan North, Erica Henderson
    I an age of dark and gritty superheroes, The Unbeatable Squirrel decides to have fun with the universe it lives in instead. Be prepared to smile.

    Dark Knight: A True Batman Story
    By: Paul Dini, Eduardo Risso
    Legendary Batman writer, Paul Dini, was beaten within an inch of his life. This autobiographical tale shows just how these iconic characters like Batman can get us through the darkest of times.

    Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse
    By: Chris Roberson, Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Wes Dzioba, Dan Dos Santos
    Set after the events of the previous series, Leaves on the Wind, No Power in the ‘Verse continues the tale of our favorite Browncoats

    I Am a Hero Omnibus Volume 1
    By: Kengo Hazawa
    A slightly crazy artist, and one of the few people in Japan that actually owns a gun, is neck deep in the zombie apocalypse.

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    Top Shelf Month Interview Round-Up!

    Top Shelf Month Save 20% in AugustWe’ve been fortunate to conduct some amazing, thought-provoking interviews with Top Shelf’s incredible collection of creators during Top Shelf Month this August! We’re far from finished, but here’s a quick guide to make sure you’re caught up:

    James Kochalka Talks About Dragon Puncher & More: Comic book writer/artist/musician James Kochalka talked with us about his kids comics, Dragon Puncher and Johnny Boo, as well as his adult-oriented American Elf and SuperF*ckers series!

    JD Arnold & Rich Koslowski Howl About BB Wolf & the Three LPs: JD Arnold and Rich Koslowski talked about their bluesy retelling of the story of The Three Little Pigs, BB Wolf and the Three LPs.

    Jeffrey Brown Talks About Undeleted Scenes, Cats and More!: Ignatz Award-winning artist/writer Jeffrey Brown introduced us to Undeleted Scenes, a collection of his favorite comics.

    TFAW Interviews Eddie Campbell and Daren White: Indie greats Eddie Campbell and Daren White talk to us about their new collaboration, The Playwright, as well as their upcoming projects!

    Sean Michael Wilson Introduces Us to AX Alternative Manga: Writer Sean Michael Wilson talks about the process of editing AX TPB Vol. 1, a collection of alternative manga offered in English for the first time.

    Nate Powell on Swallow Me Whole, Mental Illness & the Magic of Siblings: Creator Nate Powell tells us about his Ignatz and Eisner Award-winning opus, Swallow Me Whole, and shares his deeply felt views on the treatment of the disabled and individuals living with mental illness.


    Have you been enjoying Top Shelf Month? What other interviews would you like to see? Post your comments below!

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    Nate Powell on Swallow Me Whole, Mental Illness & the Magic of Siblings

    Swallow Me Whole Nate PowellNate Powell’s dreamlike, complex Swallow Me Whole captivated comics fans on its release, winning the 2009 Ignatz Awards for Outstanding Debut and Outstanding Artist and the 2009 Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel. Focusing on a blended family in the South, it deals with aging, mental illness, the bonds of siblings, and much more.

    As part of Top Shelf Month, we got to ask questions of artist/writer/musician Nate Powell–his thoughtful, passionate responses are below:

    TFAW.com: How did you get involved with comics in the first place?

    Nate Powell: Like lots of other kids in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was the Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman TV shows as well as Spider-Man’s role on The Electric Company that got me into comics. I started reading them at age three or four, and moved into reading G.I. Joe, Transformers, and The Nam in elementary school. I had also been drawing since I was a toddler, but didn’t put the two interests together until I was 11. I had just started reading the Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Den, and was immersed in X-Men when my best friend Mike Lierly suggested we draw a comic together. We cranked out hundreds of pages before focusing on a series called D.O.A., which we self-published from 1992-94. I had gotten into the DIY punk subculture at the same time and began writing a zine called The Schwa Sound in 1994, but it took several years before I saw my comics and zine work as being connected endeavors.

    TFAW.com: Are there any artists who especially speak to you?

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageNP: Arthur Adams and Michael Golden were the two artists who made me want to draw comics in the first place. I got more serious about making comics in the mid-late ’90s, thanks to Al Burian’s The Long Walk Nowhere, Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You, J.M. DeMatteis and Glen Barr’s Brooklyn Dreams, Eric Drooker’s The Flood, Ben Katchor’s Julius Knipl series, and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu: A Child’s Dream. Also of great importance to me are Gabriella Giandelli, Dash Shaw, Erin Tobey, Dylan Horrocks, Anders Nilsen, Lilli Carre, John Porcellino, Ken Dahl, Lynda Barry, and Farel Dalrymple.

    TFAW.com: How did the idea for Swallow Me Whole start out?

    NP: The story’s core emerged as a powerful dream I had in October 2001, while living in western Massachusetts. Over the next couple of years I slowly shaped it into something that vaguely made sense, as the narrative merged with another book I was writing.

    TFAW.com: You worked with adults with developmental disabilities for a decade–was this your inspiration for the book?

    NP: No, I try to keep a little fence between those two parts of my life, though it’s unavoidable to be influenced deeply by that line of work. My older brother Peyton has some developmental disabilities, and I feel that my perspective on life is much more powerfully influenced by him–I mean, he’s the reason I wanted to work supporting folks with disabilities in the first place. I remain wary of singular external focus on the “mental disorder” aspect of Swallow Me Whole. I feel like it’s just as much about aging, death, dignity of choice, relationships, and a repressive cultural climate as it is about disorders.

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageTFAW.com: Swallow Me Whole is so dense, with a vague, dreamlike quality to it. How did you come up with the overall structure?

    NP: Besides the story’s birth in a dream itself, it was structured the same way all my other stories are. Once I have a sense of the “big idea” behind the story, I begin organizing my sketchbook collection of scenes, vignettes, snippets of conversation, and imagery into a master list, and look for connections and repetitions in theme or aesthetic. Once a character or two emerge that I really start to care about, I pretty much arbitrarily plug those characters into each of the scenes/situations, and try to experience how any character might navigate those scenes. For me, the narrative is generally subservient to the themes and concepts, so once the scene structure and narrative flow are shuffled around into something that makes sense, it’s already following rules of intuition instead of narrative logic, which I save until I’m smoothing out bumps in the narrative itself. I’ve always been attracted to more intuitive narrative flows, and I enjoy the deliberation it takes to truly dwell inside the story as a reader or viewer.

    TFAW.com: It’s interesting that the two main characters, Ruth and Perry, are step-siblings, but they both struggle with aspects of schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. What was the purpose of that?

    NP: In one sense, I think it’s magical that most siblings have a shared subjective experience within their childhood time together, sometimes resulting in what seems like a sibling cult with its own mythology, language, ritual, and way of navigating the world. As kids hit their teenage years, they naturally drift apart into their own lives, more or less, and watch that magical state begin to close.

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageRuth and Perry are step-siblings that have been together since age six or seven, I think, but they get along quite well. I think it’s interesting that, as their magical sibling-realm begins to fade away, they separately struggle with the emergence of highly subjective experiential states, except adolescence has delivered them into a self-consciousness that makes them hesitant to share those experiences with each other. Also, I should note that in the dream origin of the story, Perry had his little wizard and the same kind of relationship with it and his family, but there was no rational grounding for his situation. I figured that, if this wizard were hanging around, it was certainly a delusion of his, and I let the story flow from there.

    TFAW.com: Although both of them try to appear normal, they both clearly exhibit unusual behavior. However, their families don’t appear to notice, except for Memaw, who treats it as a matter of course and seems to have dealt with these issues herself. Do you think it’s typical that close family members overlook this sort of thing?

    NP: I think it’s absolutely normal for a family to sweep stuff like this under the rug as long as it can be. I grew up in the South, and the Not Dealing With Real Shit method is very common for Southern middle-class Protestants. It’s different from denial–it’s more of a class-driven desire to fill out the corners of a family’s expected role in one’s culture.

    Communication and intimacy were never strong suits in my family growing up, but we certainly worked through some very tough times as my brother tried to find living, working, and educational environments that worked for him in a time when autism was still practically unknown (keep in mind that in 1987, doctors’ official diagnosis of my brother’s condition was that “his brain was wired wrong.” Public exposure to autism is an extremely recent move forward.).

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageMemaw has certainly experienced some similar states, but I think of hers as religious-flavored delusions peppered by bipolar depression and, more recently, neurochemical rewiring from intense cancer treatment. Her adherence to Christian mythology, however, provides for a socially acceptable pocket in which to deposit her delusions and powerful experiences–neurochemically, there are few differences between brain activity in states of religious zeal and powerful bipolar states or certain epileptic storm activity.

    TFAW.com: Ruth is eventually diagnosed after having a breakdown at school. Percy looks as if he might get treatment after a visit to the family doctor, but is dismissed. Is this pointing to the differences in the way boys and girls with mental disorders are treated?

    NP: That section’s just about gender expectations in general, but it’s especially magnified when you have a male character who’s showing a gender-norm approved interest in something active, and a female character who’s also showing creative and constructive interest in something active, but that’s compounded by both scientific and artistic focus on her creatures.

    TFAW.com: Why does Ruth have such an intense focus on insects and other creatures?

    NP: I have fond memories of growing up in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama, spending entire seasons with cicadae saturating the trees, playing in ditches, surrounded by their little chants. I was aware of what these little things were, but only saw their husks as a kid, and didn’t actually see a live cicada until I was a teenager–they seemed a little mystical to me in childhood for surrounding everything invisibly. That’s made even better in adulthood, seeing how slow and uncoordinated and relatively cute they are–they’re like the Curly [of The Three Stooges] of the insect world. So that’s my personal attachment.

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageRuth personally believes that she is, or can become, a conduit for their communication, and this is parallel to her emerging awareness of sentient life forms and their sovereignty. I think Ruth likes insects’ extremely non-Western modes of organization, their collectivist but decentralized structure, and their (apparent) absence of ego. She’s also attracted to the nature of the food chain itself, with insects as rabid devourers/consumers of their environment, but essentially remaining simple fodder for dominant creatures.

    TFAW.com: At one point, Ruth denies that her schizophrenia is a disability and sees it as a gift, like a second sight. How do you feel about that?

    NP: That’s not really my business, but it’s certainly not an uncommon perspective on mental disorders or developmental disabilities. There is certainly value in the relative extremes of the anti-medication movement, though I feel the value is largely in keeping the dialogue itself alive. Disorders and disabilities are naturally double-edged swords, and where a disorder falls on that spectrum is relative to a person’s support system and her ability to function in daily life. Ruth’s character seemed inevitably attracted to that perspective as she moved through adolescence, particularly when countered with Perry’s increasing control over his own disorder. To clarify, Ruth’s primary issue is her obsessive-compulsive disorder, through which she perceives the existence of a grand unifying structure underneath all life forms. This emerging belief system is religious in nature when coupled with her ritualistic explorations, and it is largely considered schizophrenic because she’s the only member of her congregation.

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageTFAW.com: How well do you think our current system treats those with mental illness? Is the stigma going away?

    NP: Stigma has certainly not changed in the last 30 years (and it won’t change in another 30) except for the commodification of marketable disorders like chronic depression, but the fact that mental illness is a relatively normal part of our cultural dialogue is very promising. Keep in mind that before 1978, most Americans with developmental disabilities and moderate to severe mental disorders were literally invisible, locked away for life in public and private institutions shockingly similar to the images of “asylum” we collectively maintain. I mean, people with Down’s Syndrome were often locked away for life.

    My brother first began seeing medical professionals at age four, in 1976, because he hadn’t really begun to speak yet and was showing classic symptoms of autistic development. Most doctors suggested to our parents that Peyton [Powell’s brother] was screwed for life, and that the best thing for him was to be put away in an institution (fortunately, this didn’t happen). Our concept of a “moderate” approach to normalization and inclusion is very recent. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, most institutions in the U.S. were closed down, and thanks to Reagan’s shitty America, lots of these places literally just opened their doors with no social or transitional support for folks with mental illness or disabilities, which is the other main reason (after our complete lack of dealing with vets suffering from PTSD) for such a spike in homeless folks with mental illness.

    Our reality is that a large, invisible underclass (folks living with disabilities) relies on public assistance and support networks to remain alive. As the Christian Right swings its illiterate paws around, this invisible class of people is in extreme danger, and as history shows, if this right-wing authoritarian trend organizes into fascism, folks with disabilities will be the first people exterminated. That’s why I remain serious about the importance of advocacy and support in light of our recent social progress on this issue, and why I identify most closely with a pragmatic socialism, though my heart dreams of anarcho-democracy.

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageTFAW.com: In addition to being a cartoonist, you’re a musician–how does one affect the other for you?

    NP: I started being in bands when I was 14, at the same time I started publishing comics. The two are certainly intertwined, but largely their relationship is complementary. I really value the collectivist creations in a band–the production of something that requires equal, unselfish creative contributions from everyone involved. That contrasts pretty sharply with the time I spend alone in my cave, drawing comics out of my head. The existence of both, when I’m that fortunate, feels really healthy. As my comics become more concrete, linear, and politically specific narratives, the subjects I write music about tend to be more vague, broad, and internalized.

    TFAW.com: What can you tell us about Any Empire, your upcoming book with Top Shelf?

    NP: Any Empire is about violence. Specifically, it follows three people who grow up in a Southern town (Wormwood, the same town in which Swallow Me Whole occurs) during the Reagan era, awash in a specific privileged American fantasy surrounding violence– G.I. Joe kids whose parents were delivered into the boom of post-WWII cultural privilege. Each kid has a different relationship to violence in their personal lives, in their developing concepts of the world, and also experiences fantasy in a different way. The story follows these three people into adulthood, as their relationships to violence and fantasy change, and they work to reconcile their individual shifts in worldview, looking for answers to questions of power, choice, whether or not a better world is even possible, and how best to fight for it when opposition is deadly and crushing.

    Swallow Me Whole Preview PageTFAW.com: What other types of projects do you want to work on?

    NP: Well, also in the works are a graphic novel I’m drawing called The Silence of Our Friends, written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos, and published by First Second. It follows two families in late-’60s Houston amidst civil rights struggles, hate crimes, cultural shifts, and relationships of opportunity. That book’ll be out in February 2012. I’m drawing a half-novel, half-graphic novel for young adults called Year of the Beasts, written by Cecil Castellucci and to be published by Roaring Brook Press in 2012. It’s a mythology-wrapped story about dealing with the inevitability of sorrow and tragedy in people’s lives. After these, I’m working on a book called Cover, co-written with one of my long-time friends, Nathan Wilson. It follows the lives of people living in a city that rearranges itself every night, haunted by a mysterious controlling entity. That’s all I can say about that one at present–it’s still several years off.

    TFAW.com: Thanks for talking with us, Nate!

    Browse our exclusive eight-page preview of Swallow Me Whole! Make sure to order by the end of August, when it–and our entire stock of Top Shelf books–are 20% off!

    Are you interested in picking up Swallow Me Whole? Post your comments below!

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    Nate Powell Supports the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund!

    Nate PowellWriter/artist/musician extraordinaire Nate Powell is the latest addition to our Second Annual SDCC Autograph Card/CBLDF Auction event! Powell will contribute an original sketch to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund that will be auctioned off at San Diego Comic-Con, with all of the proceeds going toward the fight for the First Amendment rights of the comics community!

    Powell’s graphic novel Swallow Me Whole, from Top Shelf Productions, won Ignatz Awards for Outstanding Debut and Outstanding Artist, as well as an Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel.

    We are very excited to have Powell join this year’s CBLDF event: not only will his original sketch be auctioned by the CBLDF, but we will be taking all of the sketches from our awesome publishers and creators and creating limited-edition autograph cards! We’ll be giving these away, for free, at Comic-Con in San Diego. To collect yours, stop by the TFAW booth and the booths of our participants!

    Want to be a part of the action? If you’re a comics professional who wants to get involved, we will gladly accept new participants up through July 14–email Andrew McIntire with the subject line, “CBLDF Auction 2010” now. Or simply become a member of the CBLDF.



    Who else would you want to see participate? Post your comments below!

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