05/13/2016

Sally here on this Friday the 13th, with nothing spooky to offer. Instead, I’ve got tons of press about Koyama Press, a bit of hero worship for Rokudenashiko, and a whole lot of longing for TCAF…

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Lisa Hanawalt/Michael DeForge/Koyama Press

The National Post had a write up about Annie Koyama and Koyama Press this week, detailing how truly “kick-ass” they both are.

And it’s definitely their week! Mental Floss hyped two of Koyama Press’ new books – What is Obscenity by Rokudenashiko, and Night Air by Ben Sears – as 2 out of 5 favorites.

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A page from Night Air by Ben Sears

This is Sears’s first graphic novel and it reads like a marriage between the character designs of Mike Mignola, the childhood wonder of Farel Dalrymple, and the low-key humor of Adventure Time.” – Rich Barrett via Mental Floss

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In What is Obscenity?…Rokudenashiko tells the story of her arrest in a funny, engaging, and eye-opening way. Interspersing photographs, legal documents, and news articles with her comedic cartooning, she re-enacts the unbelievable experience of being arrested, filmed by the local news in the back of a police car (labeled with the insulting on-screen chyron as a “so-called artist”), and dealing with male lawyers and policemen who are too ashamed to even talk about what she did.” – Rich Barrett via Mental Floss

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While the book deals with Rokudenashiko‘s original imprisonment in 2014 for building a kayak, among other things, modeled on her vagina, this “so-called artist” has been fighting obscenity charges in Japan right up until Monday of this week.

The New York Post reports that a Japanese court found Rokudenashiko “not guilty of obscenity for displaying figurines modeled on her vagina, signaling a step towards freedom of expression, although the court fined her for distributing digital data of her genitals.

She isn’t about to take that fine (400,000 yen, or $3,700) on the nose –

‘”I am of course indignant. I will appeal and continue to fight in court,” she told a news conference, where she displayed several pink vagina figurines that prosecutors had argued were obscene.

Read the rest of the NYPost report HERE.

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Rokudenashiko holds up a piece of her art following a court appearance on April 15, 2015

Over on The Comics Beat, John Seven digs into What is Obscenity? and finds it to be –

…a passionate memoir and meditation on art, censorship, and societal attitudes towards women, but just as important, it’s a charming and amusing rundown of Rokudenashiko’s experiences that wraps in many aspects of Japanese culture, most fascinatingly, Japanese prison conditions.

With the recent court ruling weighing on his mind, John Seven clarifies the “real beauty of Rokudenashiko’s book”-

Despite the understandable outrage, despite the big issues that her experience tackles, despite corruption and misogyny and incompetence she faced, despite the gloominess of prison and her own emotional traumas, she still puts it together in a form that is extremely personable even as it informs. She is the best possible messenger.

That’s a real feat, but it also tells you something about the artist they were gunning for, about her intent and outlook and why the persecution was such a major misfire. It also tells you why people like her work so much. She made a kayak modeled after her own vagina. How is that not great? How is she not a hero?

Read the rest of his excellent review HERE.

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John Seven was concerned that Rokudenashiko might be prevented from coming to Canada for TCAF this weekend, but according to the Koyama Press blog she has landed in Toronto and is set to strut her fabulous stuff there, and also at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York on May 18th. Check out the event page for that HERE.

I don’t want to switch gears to talking about TCAF just yet (especially because a quick glance through their featured guest list is enough to make me cry…due to not being able to go this year…!) so let’s stay on the topic of “This Week with Koyama Press” for a bit longer.

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I’ve got another review of a new Koyama Press book! None other than Katie Skelly unpacks Cathy G. Johnson‘s Gorgeous on The Comics Journal.

Skelly lets loose some snazzy writing, proving that she can scribble about other people’s comics just as well as she can draw her own. And she makes a good case for the need to get your hands on a copy of Gorgeous

“Gorgeous itself is a gorgeously drawn comic; Johnson’s strengths lie in lush atmospheres and the sprightliness of the character’s faces, which carry tons of gesture despite their simplicity. As the tendency for younger cartoonists to eschew ink for pencil-only work grows, Johnson stands out by demonstrating an otherwise unparalleled skill in expressive lighting and texture, especially in the smoky and anxious woods that surround her highways. Her generous panels also allow for some deft experimentation in expression of time; one particular sequence, the strongest and most effective in Gorgeous, holds a diner table in wide focus for six pages, recalling the stillness of films by Chantal Akerman while still communicating panic and frustration.

You know you want to read it, but in case you need more incentive, check out the rest of the review HERE.

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Part 3

Taking a slight turn here – let’s catch up with Alyssa Berg as she finishes her 3-part series for Comics Workbook – Sunday is a Good Day to Visit a Museum. Her continuing reflection on her visit to The Rubin Museum of Art inspired Alyssa to seek the input of a few other cartoonists. This week, in the series finale, she is joined by MariNaomi, Simon Hanselmann, Sophie Yanow and Vanesa R. Del Rey in answering the question, “What are the rituals, meditations, or devotions in your artistic process?” As you can probably guess from the lineup, the answers are wildly varied, thoughtful, and entertaining.

Check out the whole piece HERE.

And a big shout-out to Alyssa for writing such a rad series for Comics Workbook!

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Speaking of MariNaomi, as you hopefully noticed above, she will be reading with Rokudenashiko at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York on May 18th. Again, check out the event page for that HERE.

Over on Unicorn Booty recently, MariNaomi was the first guest on the new INQ Podcast. Apparently, “The goal with this show is to create a ‘comic-con in your ears’, and have guests on to do a deep dive into some aspect of the comics world. … In the podcast, we talk about the ins and outs of autobio comics: how to do it right, how to do it wrong, how to do it without pissing people off (or at least how to learn not to care quite so much if you do.)

Sounds pretty good to me – check out the podcast HERE.

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And speaking of Simon Hanselmann, he’s buzzing around with HTML Flowers these days, hyping Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam. Last seen being kicked out of Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, NY…he’s most likely on his way to Toronto now to make some mischief at TCAF.

And here we are again at the subject of TCAF – or the Toronto Comic Arts Festival – which starts tomorrow. I can’t even begin to unpack it, honestly, so you’ll just have to wait for the after-party pile of news and stories we’ll be sharing all next week!

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Instead, to wrap up this week and this post, here’s a great check-in with Daniel Clowes, via NPR. Read some highlights from the interview, or listen to the Fresh Air program online. Here’s one such highlight:

On why his speech balloons sometimes drift off the page –

It’s one of those things that just sort of happens by necessity. I think I started with that Mr. Wonderful book, and the idea was that I wanted the book to be all inside his head. So you see his thoughts and they’re always in the foreground, and whatever anybody else is saying is covered up by those thoughts.

It’s sort of the way that we normally are talking to each other where we’re thinking about, like, “I really gotta go,” and somebody is telling us something and we’re not focusing. I wanted to capture that.

Find the rest HERE.

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Oh, and PS: GhostWorld is now streaming on Hulu.

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Catch ya next week! – Sally

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Sally Ingraham

Sally Ingraham

Sally is a cartoonist, educator, and journalist based in Pittsburgh, PA. She makes comics about Pittsburgh and bird watching, and co-writes the "Suzy and Cecil" daily strip (with Gabriella Tito). She facilitates the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency, is a managing editor of the CW Daily News, and runs the CW Roller Derby "of the mind" League. She is focused on documenting the current and historic place of women in the comics industry, is working to build the Women's Comics Library, and is developing a comics curriculum by and for girls.
Sally Ingraham

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