Tag: Top Shelf Productions

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    ORDER THE THREE-BOOK MARCH BOX SET

     

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

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    Jeffrey Brown Joins Our CBLDF/SDCC Autograph Card Event!

    Jeffrey Brown Top ShelfAmazing artist/writer Jeffrey Brown is an incredible supporter of the First Amendment rights of the comics community–and he’s proving it by participating in our Third Annual SDCC Autograph Card/CBLDF Auction! This is the third year in a row Brown has taken part in this event, and we want to send our heartfelt thanks to him!

    Brown has long published his funny yet poignant memoirs–and hilarious cat comics–through Top Shelf Productions, including the Unlikely, Undeleted Scenes, and Clumsy. His sketch this year (see below!) is from his latest book, Incredible Change Bots Two. The black-and-white version will be used for the a limited-edition autograph card, while the full-color piece will be auctioned off at San Diego Comic-Con in July.

    Collect them all: TFAW will be taking all of the sketches from our participating publishers and creators and creating limited-edition autograph cards, which we will be giving out for free at SDCC! To pick up yours, visit the Top Shelf or TFAW booths July 21-24!

    SUPPORT THE COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND

    SEE ALL PARTICIPATING COMPANIES & CREATORS

    See this year’s Jeffrey Brown sketch, below!
    Jeffrey Brown Autograph CardJeffrey Brown Color Piece

    Are you going to SDCC this year? Which artists are you hoping to see sketch cards for?

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    Top Shelf’s Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt Interview–Each Other?

    Jeff LemireIt’s the final day of Top Shelf Month, and to celebrate, we’re closing things down with the most hilarious interview we’ve ever posted. Please enjoy the mayhem that ensues when Jeff Lemire, creator of Essex County and Sweet Tooth, and Matt Kindt, creator of Super Spy The Lost Dossiers and 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man, interview each other! Get ready for an irreverent look inside the friendship between these two acclaimed writer/artists (who happen to be first-rate smart-a**es).

    Questions from Matt to Jeff:

    Matt Kindt: Where do your ideas come from?

    Jeff Lemire: I steal them from you or from the Internet Idea Data Base.

    MK: What’s your favorite movie pre-1970s?

    JL: 2001.

    MK: What’s your favorite movie post-1970s?

    JL: 2001.

    Matt KindtMK: Which author have you read the most books by?

    JL: Charles Bukowski and Joe Kubert.

    MK: Is that the same answer as your favorite author? If not, who is that?

    JL: Matt Kindt of course. Also, probably Alan Moore, Seth, John Steinbeck, William Gibson, Eddie Campbell and a bunch of other great people.

    MK: Which do you enjoy consuming more: movies, prose books, comics/graphic novels, or TV?

    JL: Comics!!

    MK: Have you ever played an instrument?

    JL: Is that a sexual innuendo?

    MK: There’s a train speeding down the track towards two people who are tied to the rails. You stand on a cliff above the track. There is a fat man on the cliff. You can push the fat man off of the cliff to throw the switch and change the course of the track and save the two lives below. There is no other option to save the two people on the track other than pushing the man off the cliff (killing him) and saving the two lives. What do you do?

    JL: I wait until the train kills the two people. Then I push the fat man off the cliff.

    Complete Essex County Jeff LemireMK: Do you have a prose novel in you?

    JL: Yes, I ate War and Peace yesterday.

    MK: Why do you prefer hockey over American Football?

    JL: Hi-Li. I’m working on a really heart-wrenching graphic novel about two Hi-Li playing brothers torn apart by deception rights now.

    MK: If you could own any car, what would it be?

    JL: KITT.

    MK: How many graphic novels do you think you can finish before you retire/die?

    JL: One a year, every year until I check out.

    MK: What do you want your kid to grow up to be?

    JL: Batman.

    MK: Have you almost died ever? Or been physically attacked by someone (not counting hockey games)?

    Complete Essex County Jeff LemireJL: I seem to remember you attacking me once in a hotel room at San Diego. It was dark and everyone else was sleeping. I’m not really sure if you were trying to kill me or not, but you kept whispering something about “double agents” and “my microfilm.” Does that count?

    Questions from Jeff to Matt:

    JL: Top-five favorite comics ever?

    MK: Watchmen, New Frontier, that Frank Miller Daredevil issue where Daredevil plays Russian roulette with Bullseye who’s paralyzed in the hospital, Batman Year One, Cages, and . . . oh yeah–Essex County!

    JL: Least-favorite contemporary comic book creator?

    MK: He knows who he is . . . !

    JL: Favorite TV show ever?

    MK: Twin Peaks–but The Wire might be better–I just don’t have the heart to really say that.

    JL: You are trapped in a room with me and Chris Staros. Poison gas is pumped into the room. You have two gas masks and must choose who lives. Who do you choose, Chris or me?

    Super Spy The Lost Dossiers Matt KindtMK: You’re kidding right? I put on both masks just in case one leaks.

    JL: How long on average does it take you to ink a page of comics?

    MK: 30 minutes

    JL: Are you a Super Spy or a Giant Man?

    MK: I’m a Revolver!

    JL: If you could write and draw any one monthly comic for each DC and Marvel what would it be?

    MK: Marvel: Black Widow. DC: Legion of Super Heroes.

    JL: How many books are you currently working on?

    MK: Three: End of the World, Super Natural, Strange Crimes (and I might be adding a fourth top-secret one next week).

    JL: How do you juggle more than one project at a time?

    MK: Lots of lying. I only have so many hours in a day but I end up drawing on one book at a time while writing in the evenings on another.

    JL: When 3 Story gets made into a movie who would you like to have play Craig?

    MK: I’d like to see you screen test for it, but if it can’t be you, then . . . Amy Adams.

    Super Spy The Lost Dossiers Matt KindtJL: Does your wife know about us yet?

    MK: She thinks “Jeff Lemire” is the title of a new book I’m “working on” . . . so technically . . . yes?

    JL: If so, is she tough? Could I take her in a fight if it came down to it?

    MK: Sharlink the Shark is based on her . . . so . . . no.

    JL: Does your wife own any firearms?

    MK: Does a blow-gun count?

    JL: When you think about how f*cking awesome I am, does it make you jealous, or do I inspire you to be a better cartoonist?

    MK: It’s crazy since you are so awesome–and then when I think about how I’m twice as good as you . . . it boggles my mind.

    Our thanks go out to Jeff and Matt for closing down Top Shelf Month in style–remember, today’s the last day to save 20% on all of our Top Shelf books. Also, make sure to check out our five-page preview of the Complete Essex County and our seven-page preview of Super Spy The Lost Dossiers!

    So do you want to hang out with Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt as much as we do? What’s your favorite Jeff Lemire or Matt Kindt book? Post your comments below!

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    Writer/Artist Kevin Cannon Guides TFAW to Far Arden

    Far Arden Kevin CannonAs Top Shelf Month draws to a close, we are very happy to have had the chance to interview Kevin Cannon, creator of the swashbuckling adventure tale Far Arden! Legendary brawler Army Shanks seeks to travel to the mythical island paradise known as Far Arden, but first he must contend with circus performers, adorable orphans, heinous villains, bitter ex-lovers, well-meaning undergraduates, and the full might of the Royal Canadian Arctic Navy!

    Far Arden is both a throwback to the matinee serials of old and a slyly subversive modern epic, but don’t take our word for it: read on!

    TFAW.com: Hi Kevin, thanks for talking with us!

    Kevin Cannon: Happy to be here.

    TFAW.com: Can you give us a quick introduction to Far Arden?

    KC: Sure. Far Arden is a 400-page adventure comic set in an alternate version of the Canadian High Arctic. A crusty but loveable anti-hero named Army Shanks has a map to a legendary island and people come out of the woodwork to try and snatch it from him. I like to think of it as “James Bond meets Jack London.”

    TFAW.com: I heard that Far Arden started as as an experiment where each chapter was a 24-hour marathon comic, created once a month. Can you tell us how it got started?

    Far Arden Kevin CannonKC: A friend of mine liked some of the comics I’d been making for 24-Hour Comics Day and he dared me to do a whole graphic novel like that–one marathon per month for a whole year, resulting in a 288-page book. I was a naive cocksure young man, so I accepted. Well, after the fourth chapter my drawing arm went numb for a few days so I decided to quit the marathon part of the project, but I still kept up the one-chapter-per-month goal. So in a sense I lost the dare . . . but I still have two working arms.

    TFAW.com: How long did it take you to complete it?

    KC: About a year and a half. I tacked on an extra chapter at the end because I couldn’t wrap up the story in just 12 chapters, like originally planned.

    TFAW.com: What made Top Shelf a good fit for the book?

    KC: At first I didn’t want to approach publishers because I knew they’d reject it–the art is a bit rough and the first half is a bit wonky (a result of the marathon nature of production). But then some friends twisted my arm and convinced me that I should at least send it in and get some nice rejection letters. But as I looked around at publishers I found that Top Shelf was the only home I wanted for Far Arden. There’s this real sense that when you’re with Top Shelf you’re part of a family, and the books they put out all have a really strong voice behind them and I selfishly wanted to be a part of that.

    TFAW.com: There are so many twists and turns to the story. Did you have it planned out ahead of time, or were you coming up with the plot on the fly?

    Far Arden Kevin CannonKC: In the beginning everything was on the fly. That’s a skill I developed while doing years and years of 24-Hour Comics Days, where you just learn to throw a bunch of characters together in the first act, figure out what’s happening in the second act, and then tie everything together in the third act. Going into it I knew two characters–Shanks and Hafley–and I knew the secret of the island of Far Arden. The rest of the first chapter was off the cuff. But as the months went by I would jot down character notes and plot points and eventually by the end of the book I was writing full scripts. I don’t think I could have kept all those character threads in my head.

    TFAW.com: Far Arden really reminds me of classic adventure tales or cliff hangers. What were your inspirations?

    KC: I love serialized TV. In the ’80s, every Friday night my mom and I would watch Dallas together, and I got addicted to that little rush you get at the end of each season finale when the writers get their hooks in you. I have an especially vivid memory of some character–probably JR–being trapped under a huge dangling shard of broken glass. Actually, it might have been Sue Ellen. In any case, I still get chills thinking about it. Lost also did cliffhangers especially well.

    TFAW.com: Although there are a lot of well-worn cliches in the book (circus performers! long-lost parents!), most of them are turned on their ear and edged in real tragedy. Was that your intent, or did the book just evolve in that direction?

    KC: Mainly I wanted to write a story that was a lot of fun but still honest to the fact that all these characters are living in the middle of an arctic wilderness, and at the end of the day Nature is the only character that has any real say. Shanks himself is a kind of narrative surrogate for Nature–a force that sweeps through peoples’ lives and tends to do more harm than good, without meaning to. So, I admit the book goes to a dark place at the end, but I think that it goes to an honest place, given the context of the setting.

    Far Arden Kevin CannonTFAW.com: How do you feel your artwork evolved over the course of the book?

    KC: I gave myself more and more time to draw each page, so by the time the book ended the pages looked cleaner and tighter, and the crosshatching less frenetic. Although I kind of love that about the first four chapters–the ones that were done in 24-hour spurts–they embody a frenetic and desperate energy that I don’t think a person can infuse strategically; it has to come out of a kind of celebratory sleep-deprived exhaustion.

    TFAW.com: Far Arden was nominated for an Eisner Award in the category “Best Publication for Teens.” Were you intentionally creating a comic for teenagers?

    KC: Oh god no. I wrote Far Arden for myself and for the five or so 30-something friends who I knew were reading it online. If I had been trying to craft the book for any kind of audience–teen or otherwise–I think it would have killed the spontaneity and riskiness of the work. But I’m flattered by the nomination!

    TFAW.com: How did you get into comics?

    Far Arden Kevin CannonKC: As a kid I wanted to be a newspaper daily strip cartoonist, but then I looked into what it took and got discouraged by the lengthy contracts, monotonous output and editorial interference. Finally in college I discovered Crumb, Bagge, and Clowes and realized that I wanted to make edgy funny books like them. Getting into comics has turned out to be the easy part. Staying in comics, and dealing with the isolated, income-free lifestyle has proved the challenging part.

    TFAW.com: One of your early gigs was drawing comic strips for The Scarlet and Black, the official college newspaper at Grinnell College. How has that shaped your career?

    KC: The experience of doing a comic for a newspaper has taught me two valuable lessons. One is that a newspaper goes to print whether you’ve turned in your strip or not. This helped me in both my later commercial work and with 24-Hour Comics Day–every project has a deadline and you need to plan well ahead of time to be able to make that deadline. The second lesson was that I don’t live in a bubble. When I wrote something edgy that I thought was funny, it took me a while to realize that complete strangers might read it and take offense. Now, maybe they’re being too sensitive or taking a joke too personally, but being called out helped me be more empathetic, which is a good skill to have both as a comics creator and as a human being.

    TFAW.com: You also have another side to your career, illustrating nonfiction graphic novels about science and history. What is that like, and how did you get involved in this?

    Far Arden Kevin CannonKC: Working on nonfiction comics saved me, in a way. For several years after college I didn’t do anything intellectually stimulating and in my mid-20s I felt markedly stupider. To fix that I was considering quitting comics and going back to school but then Jim Ottaviani swooped in and offered me and my studio mates Zander Cannon and Shad Petosky a chance to illustrate a graphic novel about paleontology called Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards. Having an excuse to learn and do research has made my brain feel whole again, and so I’m thrilled that publishers keep approaching us to illustrate nonfiction books. We’ve since done books on space science, geology, genetics, and the U.S./Soviet space race. And more are in the works.

    TFAW.com: I also spotted A Time to Thrill, the comic you drew on the sides of a pinewood derby car for the Pinewood Derby Art Car Show, which was amazing. Do you have any plans to do more projects like that?

    KC: Thanks, yeah, that car was supposed to be a sculpture that could be raced down a track, and instead I filleted it and drew a story on the inside of each fillet (people can read it on Top Shelf 2.0). Anyway, I always try to be involved with some community art project or another because being locked away alone working on a graphic novel can make you crazy. Fortunately Minneapolis is a great scene for comics-related gallery shows and monthly jam sessions and the like, so it’s easy to find an artistic distraction.

    TFAW.com: What else do you have coming up?

    Far Arden Kevin CannonKC: On the nonfiction front I co-illustrated a graphic novel on evolution called Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth and that hits stores in January. It was written by Jay Hosler of Clan Apis fame and is the sequel to our genetics book (The Stuff of Life) so I’m really excited. Zander Cannon and I have started our marketing campaign early and have created a couple of evolution-related posters that will hopefully end up in classrooms around the country. Other than that, I’ve been working for the last eight months on another long graphic novel, but that’s under wraps at this point.

    Our thanks go out to Kevin Cannon for his delightful responses! Make sure to order Far Arden today at TFAW.com–you can still save 20% on all Top Shelf books through August 31! So what are you waiting for? You owe it to yourself to check out the publisher’s terrific catalog.

    Also, take the time to check out our six-page preview, chock-full of adventure, mayhem, and curious plot twists!

    Are you a fan of Far Arden? Have you ever participated in a 24-Hour Comics Day? Post your comments below!

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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.

    SAVE 20% ON ALL TOP SHELF BOOKS IN AUGUST

    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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    Sean Michael Wilson Introduces Us to AX Alternative Manga

    Ax Alternative Manga Sean Michael WilsonThis week, Top Shelf Month continues with an interview with Sean Michael Wilson, editor of AX TPB Vol. 01, a collection of alternative manga that is “Independent, Open and Experimental,” according to the cover. We got the chance to pepper Wilson with questions regarding this unusual collection–check out our conversation below!

    TFAW.com: So what is alternative manga?

    Sean Michael Wilson: That is as hard to answer as asking what is “alternative comic books.” Basically the same characteristics might be there though, as with alternative comics in the U.S. or UK or France. It delineates something artistic, artist-centric manga, an exploring spirit, less boundaries, less control by editors, etc. The motto of AX is: “Manga should be independent, Manga should be open, Manga should be experimental.” So that’s what our English collection is also!

    TFAW.com: How does gekiga manga fit into the overall genre?

    SMW: Gekiga is the first attempt at a more mature style of manga. Though we should not say “gekiga manga,” which is like saying “book book” almost. Just “Gekiga” is enough–the original creators of that invented the word to describe a thing in itself, a type of visual storytelling that uses certain techniques and certain themes that might be more interesting to older, mature audiences. Those originators are [Yoshihiro] Tatsumi, [Masahiko] Matsumoto and [Yoshiharu] Tsuge–though many others are involved, that’s the three main ones we are focusing on.

    TFAW.com: Can you give us a quick history of AX?

    Ax Alternative Manga Sean Michael WilsonSMW: AX and the publisher Serin-Kogeisha developed out of Garo. Most of the staff at AX once worked at Garo. When Garo changed hands in the ’90s and started to take on a more mainstream character, some of the staff disliked the change. It’s contentious as to what happened, involving a lot of gossip and accusations–but the end result was that the people who later formed AX left Garo in 1997.

    They soon decided to do something to continue to make more alternative-style manga. So, within six months they had started AX–which first came out in February 1998. Its named after a Bob Marley song, “Small axe,” about cutting down the big Jamaican record companies, as they likewise provide an alternative to the big manga companies.

    TFAW.com: What types of things will AX Vol. 1 include?

    SMW: Several types of manga are in it: erotic, dreamtype, “I” type stories, heta-uma (intentionally bad/good stuff), offbeat humour, gekiga-influenced, nichijo (everyday stories) etc. As they say, something for everyone!

    TFAW.com: Do you have any personal favorites?

    SMW: My own favourites in the book include those by [Shin’ichi] Abe, [Akino] Kondo, [Kazuichi] Hanawa and [Takato] Yamamoto, and of course the story by Tatsumi is delightfully odd.

    AX Alternative Manga Sean Michael WilsonTFAW.com: How did you become involved in this project? What was your role, as editor?

    SMW: I met with Mitsuhiro Asakawa, one of the editors at the Seirin-Kogeisha office in Tokyo. I had to hunt around the back streets of Shinjuku to find the little one-floor office of Seirin-Kogeisha, hidden behind some local shops. After that we normally meet in a cafe in Jimbo-cho, the same one that Tatsumi has being going to since the 1960s. Asakawa and I got on well and established a rapport. We both love the Beatles and The Who and other ’60s rock music! In fact we talk about music as much as manga. So we decided to make a joint effort to bring some AX stuff out in English.

    The basic reason was to show more of this alternative, indie-style manga, since it has not been seen much so far. I began by telling people about it in the NYCC in 2008 and got interest right away. From then on I steered the whole process through, working with Asakawa, the interior designer Ian, the translator Spencer and the whole crew at Top Shelf: Chris, Brett, Leigh, Rob and the cover layout designer, Eric. It was a lot of work over 400 pages, but we pulled it off quite well.

    TFAW.com: How did you select which pieces would be included?

    SMW: It was a mix of a “best of,” with an attempt to be representative of the range in Japanese AX, and also to show mostly self-contained stories this time.

    AX Alternative Manga Sean Michael WilsonTFAW.com: How did Top Shelf become a part of this?

    SMW: Basically because I respect their work and their positive attitude. It was a book that several companies wanted to do, as it was clearly going to be something special. But my recommendation to Asakawa was that Top Shelf would be good for it. And they have been very supportive.

    TFAW.com: What would someone who enjoys books like Naruto or Gunsmith Cats think of AX Vol. 1?

    SMW: So far some have reacted like “Eh, what is this, it’s gross!” Others have been “Wow, this is amazing, I’ve never seen manga like this!” The more mature, experienced fans have said that they are very happy to see the book come out and for manga available in English to take this further step forward.

    TFAW.com: Since this is titled “Vol. 1,” can we expect additional volumes?

    SMW: Yes, if enough of you buy volume one!

    AX Alternative Manga Sean Michael WilsonTFAW.com: How has manga evolved over the past 10 years, in your opinion?

    SMW: Well, I am not knowledgeable enough to say. One thing I need to make clear is that I am not a manga expert. I am a comic book writer who lives in Japan and works with Japanese artists and Japanese publishers. It’s only this gekiga/alternative style that I have a special knowledge of, and that’s mostly thanks to Asakawa.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any idea of what the next 10 years will look like?

    SMW: Who knows, manga spaceships finally? But for gekiga, mature-style manga, this is the best time there has ever been. It seems to have finally found its time for greater appreciation, not just with our AX book, but also the Tatsumi’s books with Drawn & Quarterly, and the efforts of Fantagraphics and Last Gasp also. Tatsumi’s book winning two Eisner awards this year [Editor’s note: Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life won “Best Reality-Based Work and Best U.S. Edition of International Material–Asia” this year] is an indication of that wider appreciation, and several people told me that the AX book itself will probably get an Eisner nomination next year. So, if things go well, 10 years from now there should be a large library of mature-style manga available in English, and that will be a great thing.

    TFAW.com: What else do you have coming up that you’re excited about?

    AX Alternative Manga Sean Michael WilsonSMW: Well, Masahiko Matsumoto’s Cigarette Girl is coming out next year, probably timed for the next San Diego. That will be a big step forward for the understanding of gekiga. Matsumoto was a big influence on Tatsumi, and developed various techniques associated with the gekiga approach. Then, as a writer, I have my first book with Kodansha International coming out in September in Japan, and in January in the U.S./UK. That’s called Hagakure, and is an authentic version in manga format of a key guide to the way of the samurai, written in the the early 18th century. This was written by myself and with art by Japanese artist Chie Kutsuwada.

    Chie and I have also done The Story of Lee for the U.S. publisher NBM. That will come out in December–set in Hong Kong is a mix between a cross-cultural romance and a culture/age clash story. That’s an original story by me, with lots of real Hong Kong places in it–I went there and did my research! I also have my version of Oscar Wilde’s A Canterville Ghost coming out in October, from Classical Comics in the UK. So, lots more to come!

    We want to thank Sean Michael Wilson for giving us the inside scoop on AX TPB Vol. 01–check it out and save 20% on it and all Top Shelf books this August! Also, make sure to take a peek at our 17-page preview of this amazing collection.

    Are you a fan of alternative manga? Post your comments below!

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    TFAW Interviews Eddie Campbell and Daren White

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellTop Shelf Month continues with an interview with Daren White and Eddie Campbell, collaborators on this year’s The Playwright!

    Eddie Campbell has been a major presence in independent comics since the 1970s, starting out with semi-autobiographical work like Alec and the fantastical Bacchus, and collaborating with such luminaries as Alan Moore with From Hell.

    Daren White also has a background in indy comics, with his anthology series DeeVee, and he has also worked on mainstream titles such as Batman: The Order of the Beasts (on which he collaborated with . . . Eddie Campbell!).

    The Playwright is the engrossing, sometimes cringe-worthy examination of a middle-aged man in London, a successful (albeit lonely) playwright who has an internal monologue that is shockingly filthy at times and sadly pathetic at others, but always fascinating.

    TFAW.com: How did the concept for The Playwright come about?

    Daren White: The original idea was for a short character study which would present a seemingly ordinary middle-aged man, sitting on a bus on a dreary Tuesday afternoon. However, the narration would be a very juicy, personal, and somewhat saucy, monologue whereby we realise that the kindly, inoffensive man in the corner is actually judging the other passengers sexually. The idea quickly grew beyond a short story, although obviously I didn’t point this out to Eddie at the time he agreed to illustrate it.

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellTFAW.com: What made you decide to expand it into its own graphic novel?

    Daren: We’d published three chapters in black and white, and in a traditional comic book format, in my own DeeVee anthology, the last of which was published in 2008. Eddie had by then cottoned on to the fact that it was actually a work in progress and I came clean about the whole story being 10 chapters. We discussed how best to present it and arrived at the landscape format, to more closely resemble a classic newspaper strip. Because our story is so far removed, thematically, from the usual comic book content, it didn’t seem right that the book edition should resemble one.

    TFAW.com: What do each of you think about the main character, the Playwright?

    Daren: Hopefully he’s sympathetic to the reader. His personality could easily be repellent and I did try to balance this with a softer, self-deprecating side. I think he’s a more complex character than might appear on the surface and, obviously, much of his personality has been exaggerated for comedic effect. I always keep my eye out for him when I ride the bus.

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellEddie Campbell: I wouldn’t want to get too close to him, which ironically is what I kept doing with those zoom/blow-ups of his face. I did a huge one recently for a magazine cover but it wasn’t used, where I replaced the inked eyes with ones from a photograph. So you can have the first showing of it here (see to the left). I figured this technique would fit with Daren’s idea of the ordinary inoffensive-looking man who upon closer inspection turns out to be a bit of a worry. So each time I zoomed in I’d trick up one of the details in a disconcerting way.

    TFAW.com: His internal monologue is mainly obsessed with sex and the idea of finding a female companion. Do you think this is a realistic look into most guys’ heads?

    Daren: It’s interesting that you mention his desire to find a female companion because, to me, that is the cause of the sexual obsession. A few reviews have missed the companionship part and focused solely on the sexual longing. I do think men of a certain age probably are obsessed with sex, although they’d usually be quite a bit younger than the Playwright. His problem is suffering a lean spell of such magnitude that it could hardly lead to anything other than obsession. Usually men of his age have replaced one obsession with another. Perhaps fine wine, career success, fame or money. I’m sure Eddie can provide insight into this.

    Eddie: He’s a cheeky scamp, that Darren Wright. Note that if you want to aggravate him you just have to spell his name wrong. Put an extra “r” in Daren. You have no idea how often this has happened on our current publicity campaign, and other variations that beg explanation. He was “Daren Brown” in one review.

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellTFAW.com: Despite his constant thoughts about women, the Playwright is almost completely isolated from everyone around him–including his family, from which he is estranged after writing about his mentally disabled brother. Is this a commentary on how the creative process affects personal relationships, or is this specific to the Playwright?

    Eddie: It is certainly one of the dangers of using real life for your source material. It can break up families, though it’s not nearly as effective as arguing about money. In the book I am currently working on I intend to use both techniques as the subject is money itself. I’ll say more about that below

    TFAW.com: At one point, the Playwright wonders if his constant loneliness has been the source of his creativity. How do you two feel about that?

    Eddie: In my own case I have always found it to be the opposite. I am more creative when life around me is teeming and chaotic, which you can see in my big Alec book. If I am left alone for an extended period I usually do a lot of reading, and thus my creative activities are diminished. But the great thing about art is that it works differently for everybody. For instance, many writers like to keep their connection to the real everyday world by doing regular things like a proper job and not having to risk losing their direction as a writer by having to balance their meaningful work with commercial jobs. I’m sure Daren would say that if he were doing it full time he would be driven insane. And he would probably posit me as an example.

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellDaren: I think for the Playwright this probably is true but doubt it’s a common occurrence. I suspect I’m not alone in expending a great deal of creative energy in wasting time, when left to my own devices.

    TFAW.com: For a lonely guy, the Playwright is pretty brutal toward many of his romantic prospects–both real and imagined. Why is this?

    Eddie: A defence mechanism?

    Daren: He probably over thinks the eventual outcome of almost every scenario that features prospective female company. His lack of confidence will suggest a poor outcome is the most likely conclusion and he reacts accordingly. That said he is a romantic at heart.

    TFAW.com: Both of you now live in Australia (with Daren a British expatriate and Eddie from Scotland), but the book reads as if it were set in England. Is this correct, and if so, why?

    Eddie: Daren is from the south of England, and if he described himself as “British,” it was probably to head off any physical conflict as the Scots and the English have been bitter enemies for hundreds of years, ever since Braveheart.

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellDaren: Although we practise arguing on a regular basis, neither of us would want it to come to blows. Having said that, whilst Eddie is the taller man, I’m the heavier and would back myself if it ever turned nasty.

    The book is set in London, but rather than the real London it’s the one that exists in Richard Curtis films. Having lived away from England for about sixteen years I have to acknowledge that nostalgia plays a big part of the London in my mind. I think the Playwright’s shyness and embarrassment is more prevalent in a certain kind of Englishman than perhaps other nationalities.

    TFAW.com: Daren, what about Eddie’s style appealed to you for The Playwright?

    Daren: I knew that Eddie would perfectly capture the odd moments within the script. He is strong with characters, locations, subtle behaviour and pacing. In fact Eddie brought a whole range of additional storytelling strengths to it that I hadn’t even considered. The use of water colours and digital textures, and the inventive use of repeated panels all make it a far better final product than I could have imagined at the outset.

    The Playwright Daren White Eddie CampbellTFAW.com: Eddie, what did you like best about drawing The Playwright?

    Eddie: Daren was working with various different artists during the DeeVee era, but when he told me about The Playwright I figured I would have to illustrate it to avoid the situation of an Australian guy drawing a cockeyed version of London. And also the story had all those human subtleties that are the stuff I like to deal with. So I was working from my memory of London, which now goes back a few years, and some observers had noted that our London does look a little out of date. That’s deliberate, not only because we worked on the thing over a 10-year period, but we needed to have the character doing obligatory military service and that was a postwar/1950s thing. We also needed to have him ghost-writing seaside postcards in the era when they were charming rather than vulgar. Thus the latest we can be seeing the character is the 1990s, and if you look at his computer you’ll note it’s of that vintage. We thought a great deal about these details.

    TFAW.com: Eddie, you’ve drawn both for your own stories, such as the Alec graphic novels, and for other writers, including Daren and Alan Moore, for From Hell. Can you tell us the differences between those experiences?

    From Hell Alan Moore Eddie CampbellEddie: My own work is the thing I want to be doing in the long run, and the work that I want to be remembered for, but it’s always good to get out of my own head and draw other people’s views of the world as well. It keeps the gene-pool of my ideas from getting stagnant. The magic books I did with Alan were very good for that. Knockabout of London should be releasing a softcover edition of A Disease of Language within the next month or two, so you should look out for that. I often say that From Hell isn’t my best work, and it isn’t Alan’s either. In fact it isn’t even the best thing we’ve done together. That would be the “Birth Caul,” which you can find in Disease.

    TFAW.com: The Alec Omnibus, The Years Have Pants, has come out this year–a huge brick of a book. What’s it like to see all of that material in one place?

    Eddie: It gratifying to see all the work collected in these huge tomes, From Hell and Alec and soon Bacchus, which is the biggest catalogue of the lot and will need two 500-page volumes. But when it’s done I always think, gee I was sure it was much more than that, these 30 years all boiled down to a two-inch thick book.

    TFAW.com: When’s the last time you read through it all?

    Eddie: I had to give it some close scrutiny in putting it all together. In fact, you’d have to assert that I am nuts if you had seen me completely recompose a layer of dot-tone one dot at a time, just to see if it could be done. There was a a particularly tricky moire pattern on one of the pages that I couldn’t get rid of. But I did in the end. So if anybody ever has to tackle that in an archival project, just give me a call and I’ll tell you all the tricks.

    Alec: The Years Have Pants Eddie CampbellTFAW.com: Is there anything you would go back and change, if you could?

    Eddie: In life or on the page? I hoped I could have more influence over the way comics have gone, but in the end the stuff that is popular now is even stupider than the stuff I was reacting against in the ’70s. I wouldn’t mind so much except that in mainstream press interviews I’m always being put in the position of having to explain and justify American comic books. What I would like to do is go back over my pages and expunge any reference to the comic book industry. But wait a minute, then I’d have to take out “Ouch!” (in Alec), my little tribute to Lee and Kirby and how I discovered them when I was in hospital with a broken head.

    TFAW.com: What is it like for both of you to work with a company like Top Shelf?

    Eddie: As you know, I’ve worked with a large number of different publishers over the years, but I have gravitated back to Top Shelf. Chris Staros is like part of my family. When my kids travelled to the US recently, they stayed with Chris’s parents. But more than that, Chris is an efficient guy who knows what he’s doing. And he has a great team there too, with Brett and Rob and Leigh. And let us not forget Knockabout, co-publishers of The Playwright and our UK publisher of From Hell.

    Daren: I’ve had a relationship with Chris Staros, albeit at a geographical distance, since he, and subsequently Top Shelf, acted as stateside agents for DeeVee. When I finally met him in person, in 2005 in San Diego, he was more than generous with his time and support and it was clear that he very much treats all of his creators as part of an extended family. He and Brett could not have been more supportive of The Playwright. Having edited and published in Australia, I realise how well creators are treated at Top Shelf. Chris, Brett, Rob and Leigh are an excellent team with whom I hope to have a long relationship.

    Early version of The Playwright, written and drawn by Daren WhiteTFAW.com: Do you plan on working together again in the near future?

    Eddie: At any given time Daren and I always have a few half-finished things on the shelf. For example we have been kicking around a book titled Uncle Clowny for so long that I think it has really become several different books and will demand a great deal of unravelling. Some of the things you’ll find on that shelf . . . there was a story about Batman’s paternity suit that we pitched to DC once. Oh, and there’s Johnny Calendar and His Date With Destiny.

    Daren: Yes, although being fair, it’s partly to justify to our wives the importance in maintaining our weekly brainstorming sessions at the pub. I suspect Uncle Clowny may well take a fair while to develop but I’ll certainly be bugging Eddie to fit Johnny Calendar into his schedule because it’s a cracker. But then I suppose I would say that.

    TFAW.com: Do either of you have anything coming down the pike that you would like to tell us about?

    Eddie: Watch out for my new Alec-type book about money. It will be titled The Lovely Horrible Stuff.

    Daren: I have a story in the EEEK! Collection that is due from Asylum Press in October. I’m also working on a historical piece that’s narrated by a sentient teapot. It’s slow going, but Chris Staros informs me that all worthy books take around 10 years to produce.

    Thanks Eddie and Daren! You can check out The Playwright here at TFAW.com, as well as all of Eddie Campbell’s comics and graphic novels. Plus, you’ll save 20% on all Top Shelf titles in August!

    Are you interested in checking out The Playwright? Post your comments below!

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    Jeffrey Brown Talks About Undeleted Scenes, Cats and More!

    Jeffrey Brown Undeleted ScenesTop Shelf Month is in full swing with an in-depth interview with writer/artist Jeffrey Brown! This Ignatz Award-winning creator of Clumsy, I Am Going to Be Small, and SULK recently released his newest collection, Undeleted Scenes, and has Cats Are Weird & More Observations coming out in September!

    TFAW.com: It’s been seven years since Clumsy, your debut. How has your life changed since then?

    Jeffrey Brown: It’s changed a lot . . . I’ve gone from a fumbling, sensitive cartooning hopeful working a day job to a married with children full time artist. I’m still sensitive, though. Just in a healthier, more well adjusted way.

    TFAW.com: How has your writing/art style changed?

    JB: I think my drawing style especially has evolved quite a bit, especially in the range I’ll use for different projects, and something I see continuing to evolve and improve. I try to keep the sketchy immediacy of my earlier work without letting it become too polished, but there’s definitely a more deliberate, confident feel to my drawings now. The biggest change in writing is that I don’t write about girls so much these days.

    TFAW.com: Can you introduce us to Undeleted Scenes?

    Jeffrey Brown Undeleted Scenes PreviewJB: I tried previously (with Feeble Attempts) to make a big collection of out of print, hard to find and anthology work, and Undeleted Scenes is a fairly complete collection of the autobiographical short stories I’ve done various places over the years, as well as a few non-autobiographical favorites of mine. I still don’t know if I’m completely satisfied with it, but it’s nice to have it all collected in one place, particularly no-longer-available-stories, like “Be A Man,” which people still like.

    TFAW.com: What was it like combing through all of your past works?

    JB: It’s strange, of course. It’s hard to believe how much there is, and it’s also difficult because there’s a lot I’d do differently. In the end, I think seeing it all helps me put my new and future work in a better context, seeing where I came from both artistically and personally.

    TFAW.com: Were there stories you liked more in retrospect, or some that made you cringe?

    JB: There’s a few I’ll always love–like “Construction”–and some newer ones I’m still happy with, like “Pregnant Pause.” There’s definitely things that made me cringe, too, but then I think that’s part of what I try to do–be willing to show my own faults and shortcomings so that other people might understand that it’s really nothing to be ashamed of. I would hope that my earlier work does look cringeworthy in comparison to my newer work, because it means I’m making better work. I think.

    TFAW.com: You share so much of yourself with your autobiographical comics–is it weird having fans who know so much about you, when you know little to nothing about them?

    Jeffrey Brown Undeleted Scenes PreviewJB: Sometimes, but at the same time, I’ve tried to be accessible to readers, and in that way there’s a kind of dialogue where I do learn about the people reacting to my stories, and I get to hear their stories. Which makes the whole process all the more meaningful, and rewarding. I started writing my comics in the way I would tell those stories to friends, and that’s how a lot of people read them and consequently respond. It’s like my trust in the reader is rewarded by them trusting me. It’s good.

    TFAW.com: Are there any areas of your life that are off-limits for your comics?

    JB: Yes, but those areas are off limits to interviews too. Actually, I don’t have any set rules, I still write about what I’m interested in, and though I’m more careful about what I write and how I present things, a big part of being an artist for me is following those instincts to not compromise what I’m trying to express, and to express what I feel I need to say.

    TFAW.com: How does SULK differ from your other books?

    JB: I have far fewer unwritten, internal rules about how I work and what the books will turn out like, and I worry more about having fun and having the books be fun than what they mean or anything. I think they may tend to be funnier, but maybe not.

    TFAW.com: So far you’ve created parodies (or tributes?) to superheroes, mixed-martial artists, and science fiction. Are there going to be more volumes of SULK, and if so, what will you tackle next?

    Jeffrey Brown Undeleted Scenes PreviewJB: Next up will be a parody of Sylvester Stallone’s classic arm wrestling film Over the Top which I should begin drawing any day now, and after that I’ll be taking on G.I. Joe. I think.

    TFAW.com: I loved the little cat comic you made for the CBLDF auction this year, and I see you’ve got Cats Are Weird & More Observations coming up from Chronicle Books. What brought your attention to this?

    JB: Despite the intimate details of my life I’ve revealed in my books, some people may think the most embarrassing detail may actually be that I’m a cat person. I’ve lived with cats on and off for more than half my life, and Garfield was my first favorite comic. I wanted to write comics about cats that didn’t anthropomorphize them the way a lot of comics do, and really investigate their behavior and how funny it is.

    TFAW.com: What else are you working on right now?

    JB: I just finished the second Incredible Change-Bots book, which was delayed by various real life things (family, moving, jobs, etc.). Along with the new SULK, I’ve been working on the early scripting stages of a few different projects, trying to figure out which one I want to work on most, including the next autobiographical book about fatherhood and religion.

    We want to thank Jeffrey for the interview, which was a true pleasure! If you missed it, check out our interview with him back in July 2009!

    Check out our exclusive eight-page preview of Undeleted Scenes, as well as a nine-page preview of The Incredible Change-Bots and five-page previews of SULK Volumes 1 and 2! Make sure to browse our selection of Jeffrey Brown Top Shelf graphic novels–you can order them, and all of our Top Shelf Productions titles, at 20% off in August!

    Are you a fan? Post your comments below!

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    Exclusive Video Preview: BB Wolf and the Three LPs

    Exclusive Video Preview: BB Wolf and the Three LPs!

    You read about JD Arnold and Rich Koslowski’s collaboration on BB Wolf and the Howlers: The Lost Recordings in our awesome interview. Now you can listen to their track “Rip It Up!” while checking out our exclusive video preview of BB Wolf and the Three LPs:

    BB Wolf and the Three LPs

    CHECK OUT BB WOLF AND THE THREE LPS

    SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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    JD Arnold & Rich Koslowski Howl About BB Wolf & the Three LPs

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsCheck out our exclusive video preview of BB Wolf and the Three LPs, featuring BB Wolf and the Howlers’ track “Rip It Up!”

    This week, Top Shelf Month is singing the blues! Not that we’re depressed, mind you–how could we be, with such a hilarious interview with JD Arnold and Richard Koslowski, creators of BB Wolf and the Three LPs?

    Here, the blues are strictly of the story and music variety, as the classic tale of The Three Little Pigs is recast in the 1920s South as a yarn about racial intolerance and oppression. BB Wolf is a family man just trying to hold onto his farm, but the greedy Littlepig clan will stop at nothing to grab BB’s land. This sets up an epic tale of revenge, as BB Wolf finds every last Littlepig who done him wrong . . . and does a heckuva lot more than blow their houses down!

    TFAW.com: JD, what inspired you to create BB Wolf and the Three LPs?

    JD Arnold: The inspiration actually came from my wife, Katie. I was suffering through a few days of writer’s block. Nothing was inspiring. All my ongoing series ideas had ground to a halt. I asked Katie for a writing assignment, something to loosen the blockage. She said, without missing a beat, “Why don’t you retell a classic fairy tale? How about The Three Little Pigs?” The ideas started flowing from there. By night’s end I had plotted the entire story. I think the first draft of the script was done in a week.

    TFAW.com: Why did you decide to blend a more serious topic, racial injustice in the 1920s, with folklore?

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsJD: My first thought upon receiving the “assignment” was to turn the story on its head. In the classic, the three little pigs are the victims of a crazed, house-destroying wolf. I decided make the wolf the victim in my tale. This line of thought lead me to the idea that it wasn’t just Big Bad who was being victimized, but it was all wolves who were being oppressed by the pigs. This naturally led me to make the comparisons to the racial prejudices so common to this time period.

    TFAW.com: What was it that spoke to you specifically about the story of The Three Little Pigs?

    JD: Well, once I had begun thinking about the story, it became obvious that the story was the perfect vehicle to tell a story of racial prejudice, as well as a darn good revenge story.

    TFAW.com: What made the Big Bad Wolf a good allegory of a discriminated-against black man bent on revenge?

    JD: I think this was more a byproduct of the story. Once I had decided to play the wolf as the victim, BB fell naturally into this role.

    TFAW.com: How did you get connected to artist Richard Koslowski for this book?

    JD: I met Rich at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2007. I had recently read his book, Three Fingers, and had become an instant fan of his work. After the show I began communicating with him through email, and asked if he would take a look at a story I had written. The rest is comic book history.

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsTFAW.com: What was it about his style that you think suited BB Wolf and the Three LPs?

    JD: Again, it was Three Fingers. I had, in the meantime, read his 3 Geeks and The King, but it was the art style he employed in Three Fingers, the way he brought such human emotion to the anthropomorphic cartoon actors of the story, that made me want him to bring BB Wolf to life. And bring to life he did! I think it is easily his best work . . . but I may be a bit biased.

    TFAW.com: Did he do anything that surprised you, or made you look at your story in a different way?

    JD: I had always believed it to be a good story. But after seeing the first pages come in from Rich, the way he brought my words to life, and (spoiler alert) especially the scene near at the end of chapter one . . . it literally brought tears to my eyes. Not only because it was just so damn beautifully drawn, but that moment in the story is such an emotional punch to the gut. Even knowing what was coming, I did write it after all, I still cried. At that moment I knew I had found the right artist.

    TFAW.com: Rich, what did you like about JD’s story?

    Richard Koslowski: At first Johnnie (or JD as the world knows him) just sent me a simple email telling me he was an aspiring writer looking for an artist and would I consider reading his outline. It was nicely written so I agreed. He sent a very concise outline and it was, again, quite nice . . . very impressive actually, so I told him to go ahead and send me the entire script to read. I loved it.

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsI will, on occasion, receive similar requests, but Johnnie had his s**t going on. I had no trouble connecting with the story and visualizing exactly how I’d illustrate it. As some readers may know, I also like taking familiar characters and putting a new twist on them, so this was right in my wheelhouse. Johnnie was also willing to “put his money where his mouth was” and pay for my services out of his own pocket. This was impressive to me and showed he was fully committed to his story. We agreed upon a page rate and off we went!

    The work was fun! I’d rattle off batches of 10 pages at a crack, send them to Johnnie for approval and so forth and so on until the book was finished. All-in-all, I think we nailed it down in about five to six months.

    TFAW.com: What kind of research–into the history of racial conflict, the 1920s, or animal physicality–did you do for this book?

    JD: Wikipedia.

    RK: Wikipedia. Oh wait, he already said that . . . I looked at a handful of animal pictures–wolves and pigs of course–but only a handful. I didn’t want to rely too heavily on photo reference for this book as I wanted it to be looser than say, Three Fingers, which used a lot of photo reference. That book was a “documentary” though and that made sense for that one . . . this book was a “fairy tale” so I wanted to reference my imagination only. (Wow! That was a pretty great answer, eh?)

    TFAW.com: Was there anything specific you tried to avoid while creating the art for this book?

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsRK: Well, I had hoped that my natural style in drawing would make it such that it wouldn’t look like Disney’s Big Bad Wolf or some other studio’s interpretation. I also avoided looking at those other renditions because I specifically did not want to be influenced by them. So I just had at it and hoped it looked entirely original.

    And setting it in the 1920s as Johnnie did, and the serious tone of the story certainly helped. This is a pretty gritty Big Bad Wolf we’re seeing here . . . not a children’s book by any means.

    TFAW.com: Do either of you have a family history of or personal ties to racial injustice in the 1920s?

    JD: I’m adopted, and I honestly don’t know much about my biological family’s history. But my adopted family, The Arnolds, hail from the south, Arkansas and Oklahoma most recently, and Alabama a couple of generations before that. I do know that the Alabama Arnolds of the 19th century were small farmer owners. Whether they owned slaves I cannot say.

    RK: None that I know of. My relatives all came from Germany so I’ll be writing of my dad’s escape from Russian-controlled East Germany at some point. An entirely different tale of oppression . . .

    TFAW.com: What made Top Shelf Productions a good fit for BB Wolf and the Three LPs?

    JD: Rich had a prior relationship with Top Shelf, and they agreed to publish the book. As someone looking to have their first work published, this was all I needed. But seriously, I was, and still am, humbled and proud to be working with them. I have nothing but respect for everyone at Top Shelf, and for the books they have published. To my mind they consistently publish the highest quality books of any publisher in the industry. To be counted among those is an honor, indeed.

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsRK: Yeah, I basically asked Chris Staros if he’d take a look at Johnnie’s script and the first 10 to 12 pages we had finished and he signed it immediately. I obviously had a track record with them having had two books published (Three Fingers; The King) so it made a lot of sense to go to them again. And the book turned out beautiful! We couldn’t be happier with the quality.

    TFAW.com: You’ve also written and recorded some “rediscovered” recordings related to the book: BB Wolf and the Howlers: The Lost Recordings. How did that come about?

    JD: Rich loves telling this one . . . Rich?

    RK: Okay, I’ll give the short version, otherwise this interview would have to be in 12 parts.

    Johnnie and I were all but finished with the art and we were driving together, brainstorming on marketing ideas. The idea just popped into my head as these things tend to do! Rich: “Hey! We should cut an album of blues tunes and say they’re the lost recordings of BB Wolf & The Howlers! My brother-in-law has his own rock band and studio back in Wisconsin and I know a few other dudes who play in bands! We could write the lyrics! We could have like, three vintage tracks that sound like they were recorded in 1920 and then modern covers of those songs . . . say that these modern groups were “inspired” by BB’s music . . . really play it up! It’d be so cool!!” Johnnie: “Hell Yes!” What the heck else would he say? It was a great idea, right?!

    Now, I’m famous for having all kinds of big ideas. And they are great . . . it’s the “fruition” part that tends to be somewhat . . . challenging. We told Top Shelf and they thought it was also a fantastic idea, but “How you gonna actually do it in time?” A valid question.

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsWell, as soon as someone (and there were a few) tells me it ain’t gonna happen, I dig in, man. With only months to go until BB the book hit the stands, I started making the phone calls. Between me and Pauly (my brother-in-law) and my old friend CJ Bettin, we had two bands lined up, Spiral Trance and Big Wish! ST is my b-i-l’s award-winning metal band and they kick absolute ass. And one of CJ’s band mates knew a couple of guys who played blues guitar, slide guitar and harmonica! Now, as I said, this is the “nutshell” version . . . this whole process took a few weeks to assemble, but assemble it did. CJ deserves most of the credit for lining up the blues players.

    Pauly and I then set a recording schedule for a week in June to get everyone together to record. We had 12 musicians lined up and God bless ’em, they all showed up when they said they would and all of them hit their stride like you wouldn’t believe. From just lyric sheets and melodies Johnnie and I sang into out computer mics they were able to make some incredible music! And they’d just play through each tune a few times and be ready to record! In six days we knocked out three vintage versions and two modern tracks. Spiral Trance did their version of Freight Train the following week.

    The energy in the studio was indescribable. Everyone was focused, motivated, and I kept them well-fed!

    And if you haven’t heard it yet I promise you that you will not be disappointed. And the guy we found to sing BB’s part . . . the stars aligned just right on this one! I was going to sing the lead if we couldn’t find the “right voice” elsewhere . . . and I do sing pretty well (sang on the Bonus Track in fact! Yes! Rock Star fantasy fulfilled!) actually, but we really wanted a deeper, more growly voice for BB.

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsIt was getting near our deadline and a guy popped into my head . . . a guy who actually worked at the comic shop I frequented when I lived in WI. We played cards together a few years earlier and he mentioned he sang on weekends. Fast forward to 2010 and us looking for BB, so I track him down, ask if he still sings, he says yes, sends me an mpeg, I listen, get tingles, make Sandy listen, she gets tingles, send to Johnnie to listen, he cries like a blubbering baby, we tell “Big Bad” Chad Lundgren he is BB Wolf!

    It took a couple more weeks to master and reproduce the CDs and CD jackets after that, but we got them in time for Comic-Con! And the best part is that we did it all without telling the guys at Top Shelf until it was all finished! Needless to say, they were pretty blown away.

    TFAW.com: What were each of your roles in this?

    JD: I wrote the lyrics and melody to Freight Train and Sweet Baby Elle. I was unable to make the trip to Wisconsin for the recording, a fact that Rich will never let me forget, and something I’ll probably regret for a long, long time.

    RK: Johnnie couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin (he actually booked the flight but then canceled) to record and experience one of the most amazing weeks anyone could ever possibly hope to experience but I sure did . . . and I wrote the song Rip It Up! and then coordinated everyone. I also played the washboard on the vintage track of Rip It Up! and did a few background grunts in that song, as well as sing a duet with Chad on the Bonus Track of Rip It Up! I also helped Pauly with the engineering and mixing during the days and then was the gopher/cheerleader/adoring fanboy during the nights while we recorded . . . I also made sure they were well-fed and never went thirsty!

    Oh, and I was the videographer! Except when I actually friggin’ sang and forgot to record myself! Ugh!

    Oh, did I mention that Johnnie didn’t make the trip? So very sad.

    BB Wolf and the Three LPsTFAW.com: Do either of you plan to adapt any other classic folklore stories to comics?

    JD: I have scripts completed for re-tellings of Pinocchio, Hansel & Gretel, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’m looking for artists to bring them to life . . . or for some generous patron to pay Rich to do it. I plan on writing a sequel to BB Wolf, with Rich, being a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

    RK: I actually do have a few other fairy tales in mind, yes. My daughter is eight years old and I’d like to write a book (or two or ten) for her.

    Then there are a few more “twisted” fairy tales I’d like to tackle as well geared for the less faint of heart. And, yes, we have briefly discussed a few ideas for a BB sequel.

    TFAW.com: What’s next for both of you? Do you plan to work together again?

    RK: After BB I need to recharge a bit as it was a massive project . . . so for me that means about two weeks away from any new projects and then right back at it! I’m currently writing two books; one a very personal “picture book” and the other is of an epic scope and possibly a trilogy. Those are but two of about two dozen ideas I’ve got percolating on the desktop. But those are the two that “speak to me” the loudest right now.

    JD: As I stated above, I’d love to do the BB sequel with Rich. Rich was a joy to work with, and we’ve become great friends (he moved to Santa Cruz to be near me, so I suppose the feeling is mutual).

    RK: I was told the weather was nicer here than in Wisconsin. So far we’ve experienced the rainiest January and February in Santa Cruz in the last four decades and, apparently, the coldest July on record. Sonofa!

    Did I mention that Johnnie couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin?

    Thanks again to JD and Rich! Make sure to check out our exclusive video preview, featuring the music of BB Wolf and the Howlers! You can order BB Wolf and the Three LPs right here at TFAW.com and save 20% on this and every other Top Shelf title this month.

    Are you intrigued by the concept behind BB Wolf and the Three LPs? Post your comments below!

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    Will Dinski Talks About Fingerprints for Top Shelf Month!

    Fingerprints by Will DinskiAugust is Top Shelf Month, and as part of that, we’ll be running in-depth interviews with the incredible creators behind Top Shelf Productions’ most exciting books!

    Today we chat with Will Dinski, whose book, Fingerprints, is out now! Fingerprints deals with obsessive love, plastic surgery, and the science-fiction-like cult of beauty. Read on for Dinski’s insights into modern life and his most prominent influences:

    TFAW.com: What is Fingerprints about?

    Will Dinski: That’s always a difficult one for me to answer. In a nutshell, it’s about the sudden downfall of a successful plastic surgeon. But it also touches on celebrity culture, art and beauty.

    Will Dinski FingerprintsTFAW.com: It deals a lot with plastic surgery–is this a commentary on the increasing popularity of elective surgery? What do you think about it?

    WD: I can’t say that I’m completely against it or that there is no place at all for cosmetic surgery. For example, burn victims or people who have just been through very traumatic accidents benefit greatly because of medical procedures that can change a person’s life.

    However, there are things like this woman who is having her entire face redone in order to look like Jessica Alba. It’s permanent. And disturbing.

    Will Dinski FingerprintsTFAW.com: What kind of research did you do for the book?

    WD: I read the very good Flesh Wounds by Virginia Blum. She writes about cosmetic surgery from a very sociological perspective, and was able to explain the thought process of someone who would drastically alter the way they look through surgery.

    She writes about a procedure that some Chinese people would undergo to alter the way their eyes look. The surgeon would reduce the lower eye lids in an attempt to make their eyes more “American” looking. They would have this complicated surgery in order to better fit in with the culture around them.

    TFAW.com: What were you hoping to achieve with Fingerprints?

    WD: Gobs of money. Just gobs of it. Also fame.

    TFAW.com: What made Fingerprints a good fit for Top Shelf?

    WD: I’ve always known Top Shelf to be a strong supporter of cartoonists/artists who have a singular vision for their work, and the cartoonists they publish are a reflection of Brett and Chris’ finely tuned tastes. I feel very fortunate to be published by them. It’s a great place to be.

    Will Dinski FingerprintsTFAW.com: How did you get involved with comics?

    WD: I just always have. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a time when I didn’t have the need to tell some kind of story through comics. Some people collect stamps or like to fix cars. Everyone has a passion of some kind.

    TFAW.com: What did you start out reading? What were your influences?

    WD: Early on, I would read mostly newspaper strips. The comics pages were a pretty magical place for a kid when Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side were regular features.

    Later, it was a lot of Batman comics. I think I liked that I could afford to buy them with my own money from the grocery store. I also liked that Batman didn’t have superpowers.

    TFAW.com: What types of things do you read now?

    Will Dinski FingerprintsWD: Unfortunately, not that many comics. I read a lot slower than I used to, so I stick mostly to research reading for future stories. So a lot of non-fiction books. I’ll cut loose with a classic sci-fi book every once in a while.

    Genesis by Crumb was really mind-blowing. It is my most favorite book by him.

    TFAW.com: You’re known as being part of the “Twin Cities comics scene.” What’s it like out there?

    WD: It’s cold in the winter and humid as hell in the summer.

    Minneapolis/St. Paul is a great place to be a cartoonist. Because of the art college here (MCAD) new cartoonists move to town every year. This will be the inaugural year for the Minneapolis Indie Xpo, the city’s first independent comics festival. This area in general is well known for being friendly to the arts, creative jobs and readers. Plus, it’s so cold in the winter I can get a lot of work done.

    TFAW.com: What are you working on next?

    Will Dinski FingerprintsWD: I’ll never tell! Talking about a project before it’s done is like putting a curse on it. I don’t want to risk it.

    We want to thank Will Dinski for taking the time to answer our questions! You can order Fingerprints right here on our site. Remember, we’re offering 20% off all books from Top Shelf Productions this August, so place your orders now.

    What do you think about the concept behind Fingerprints? Are you interested in picking up the book? Post your comments below!

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