01/15/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on Dash Shaw’s Spider-Man story from Strange Tales II, and more news.—————————————————————————————————

Last week I talked a bit about Dash Shaw’s Doctor Strange comic from the first volume of the indie-cartoonist-superhero-anthology, Strange Tales. This week I was thinking about his Spider-Man comic for Strange Tales II. A meta, meditation on the Sam Rami movies, with a quote from Toby Maguire about his famous upside-down kissing scene with Kirsten Dunst at the end. This idea runs parallel with a Spider-Man v Mysterio fight with the latter using his “vapors of deception! Deceit!”

I enjoy this comic as much as I enjoy all Dash Shaw comics. Shaw is usually not without something to say in his work: Spider-Man is on “some kind of elaborate film stage,” trapped by Mysterios deceitful fog until he finds his way out and falls into “Garbage! […] That’s where the spiders thrive!” Out of the theater and into the trash where he belongs. Where Spider-Man is best.

I like this comic because Shaw is “selling out” (one could argue by working with Marvel) whilst simultaneously calling a childhood obsession (from Marvel) “garbage,” yet, lovingly. There is an irony that resides in this story and its circumstances that I relish. It’s an earnest love letter to trash. I always enjoy rereading this one.

 

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if you don’t know now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 1-15-2018 – by Sally Ingraham

01/08/2018

Caleb Orecchio with thoughts on Dash Shaw’s Doctor Strange comic, and other news

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I’ve been thinking about Dash Shaw’s Doctor Strange story in Strange Tales #1 (2009) (above), and how it contrasts to Ed Piskor’s new X-Men comic—X-Men: Grand Design is 100% sincere X-Men superhero comics, as oppose to Shaw’s tongue-in-cheek, yet sincere in its own way, superhero comic. Piskor’s X-Men is a “real” comic about the X-Men, and may affect the canon. Dash Shaw’s superhero comic was to editors and Marvel readers alike, a non-canon, non-consequential story by an artist they’ve never heard of. “Does he work for DC?”

Almost everyone in that first volume of Strange Tales made short Marvel comics that were obviously by an “indie” cartoonist. Almost every story was “humorous,” the kind of humorous that can make a fanboy/fangirl confused and mad that an outside source is tampering with his/her livelihood.

Shaw’s Doctor Strange was very funny and silly, it’s like if Wes Anderson wrote a superhero script. This utterly ignores any characterization Doctor Strange might have, which is why, as an alt comics reader, I like the comic. This is exactly the opposite to the kind of comic that pleases Marvel/mainstream fans.

What Shaw does that is completely and utterly sincere is a homage to Doctor Strange’s creator, Steve Ditko, by having our hero fight his nemesis in “the dream dimension.” Two pages of really colorful and pretty Ditko-esque combat fills our eyes to a high-point on the pleasure meter. I think about these pages often. Then Shaw brings us back to his fun, silly world of superhero parody where Doctor Strange must now stay awake by drinking coffee, resisting a contagious yawn. There is a comical knowingness there.

There is the consciousness of the cartoonist when reading this work that does not exist (or exist in such hostility to the status quo) with a “straight” superhero/mainstream work. Which again, is why an alternative reader would enjoy Doctor Strange by Dash Shaw, one may even say, “that’s my favorite non-Ditko Doctor Strange comic!” While a modern Marvel fan may argue that it is unrealistic that Doctor Strange would make his own soup.

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 1-8-2018 – by Gabriella Tito

01/01/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on Ed Piskor’s X-Men:Grand Design, and other news.

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What if Ed Piskor could do his dream X-Men comic?

“I have such reverence for Kirby. I think of him every day. But there are Marvel and DC fans who only know the superhero idiom of comic storytelling, which is to say, the Jack Kirby idiom. I’m a fan of all comics,” Piskor says. “I like manga, I like French European albums, I like a lot of newspaper comic strips. The storytelling method I use is a storytelling pastiche of all that stuff. I am trying to do the least Kirby X-Men comic ever made.”

-Ed Piskor from an Entertainment Weekly interview concerning his comic, X-Men:Grand Design

Thee great Ed Piskor has successfully brought the “indie” aesthetic to the mainstream in a big way. To me, Piskor’ drawing is this amalgamation of what is often considered “old-school’—wearing influences like Crumb, Clowes, Wood and Kurtzman on his sleeve, plus a year at the Kubert School and we have a drawing style that probably feels alien to most of today’s Marvel readers. The furthest thing from what I’d bet on to be a commercial success has turned out, from all accounts, to be a smash.

In a time where Piskor’s hatching style is practically “outdated” as far as any mainstream comic is concerned,  X-Men: Grand Design looks as fresh as any great comic to come out in 2017. This is an Ed Piskor Comic published by Marvel, as opposed to a Marvel comic, made by Ed Piskor. He even mentions in the EW interview that he will be taking small liberties with the timeline to correct old, awkward editorial mishaps. He is actually shaping the canon of the property as opposed to most indie/mainstream collaborations that end up being low-stakes, non-canon work and fall to low sales. Piskor has instead made a “real” and profitable superhero comic that will serve as a genealogy for X-Men readers, just like Hip Hop Family Tree serves as a comprehensive history of the form for hip hop heads.

How is all this relevant? Well true believers, this to me is the promise of “fusion,” a term coined by Comics Workbook fearless leader Frank Santoro. From a 2011 Rob Clough TCJ article on Michael DeForge and fusion, Frank sez, “’Fusion to me is about being polished and being able to rise above ‘amateur’ assemblages like the Fort Thunder second wave… I think it’s a broad term, but for me, [it] applies to those seeking to be ‘mainstream’ – something above most art comics and something way more sophisticated than most mainstream schools.’”

Earlier when the term was coined, the cartoonists who were prominently associated with fusion were Michael DeForge, Brandon Graham, Dash Shaw, James Stokoe, Michel Fiffe, etc, but I think the idea of Piskor’s work has brought this prophesy to fruition. This to me is very exciting for cartoonists who want to do their own thing on their own terms.

More thoughts along these lines to come. Also, see Sally Ingraham’s write-up for the X-Men: Grand Design #1.

-CO

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Joanie and Jordie – 1-1-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

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Suzy and Cecil – 1-1-2018 – by Sally Ingraham

12/18/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with positive vibes and the usual gang of links to other news.

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When my extended family ask about how my comics are going I throw myself into a frenzy of roundabout explanations and unconfident, disconnected thoughts, leaving my loved ones confused and unsure of my life decisions—or I simply change the subject. This weekend when I visited some extended family I brought copies of my book to give to them. Everyone was glad to see and own physical fruit of my–until that moment, to them, theoretical–labors. One of my aunts hugged me, tears welling up. “I remember you drawing since you were little.” I watched my family examine and flip through my book–I have to admit, it was really satisfying. I often think of being an “independent” cartoonist in terms of being a folk singer, and I think this is the closest thing (for me, so far, anyway) to standing in a room of people while playing my version of “Goodnight Irene” or something. I let the “song” speak for itself, and the crowd responded positively.

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if you don’t know, now you know

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The Winter Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers starts January 16th 2018! 8 weeks – 500 bux – coaching for as long as you need. The course is hard, but Frank will push your comics making practice to a new level, getting you to think about timing and color in new ways. Makes a great holiday gift for yourself – or for a loved one who is interested in comics. Apply by midnight (EST) on Dec. 25th and get $100 off the course price.

Full details and how to apply can be found HERE!

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Suzy and Cecil – 12-18-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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Joanie and Jordie – 12-18-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

12/11/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with the Dayton-based educational comic, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact—plus other news.

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Several weeks ago I found Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact Vol. 24 No.12 in a dollar bin here in Dayton, OH. It was a nice find. The cover was a portrait of The Wright Brothers, Dayton’s most celebrated sons, with the cover story drawn by none other than “Joltin'” Joe Sinnot. “What a find!” I thought. I look at the indicia and found the book was published right here in Dayton, OH–on 5th Street, right near where the convention center is (where they now hold Gem City Comic Con). “Gee! This is tops!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. I had no idea this comic existed, nor did I realize (obviously) that it was published right here in Dayton near a culturally thriving part of the city.

spread from Wright Bros story, written by F.E. Crandall and drawn by Joe Sinnott

The issue itself is cool. The Sinnot/Wright Bros story, some gag strips, some serialized stories, an illustrated prose story about elephant poaching, and a great editorial page called “Backtalk” located on each inside cover that could go toe-to-toe with Stan’s Soapbox. It was an educational comic that was published “twice monthly during the school year…” It was distributed across the U.S. and Canada, subscription-only, to Catholic schools mostly from what I can find–which makes sense with Dayton being a primarily Catholic town in the past (ever heard of the University of Dayton?), and being in the Rust Belt.

The series ran from 1946 to 1972. You get some great EC cartoonists like Joe Orlando (!) and Reed Crandall, plus Silver Agers like Sinnot throughout the years. Really interesting stuff—and many other notable artists. I love finding these x-factor comic books that seem to come out of nowhere (to me).

Anyway, the most interesting part I found about this series was the story, “This Godless Communism.” Drawn by Reed Crandall (whom I’m a fan of), it was a 10-part story serialized in every other issue from Vol.17 No.2, until No.20 in 1961. Basically, the title (you have to admit it’s a zinger of a title despite the propaganda) says it all. It documents the rise of communism in Russia and its evils and all that. Evidently, the story made it’s way up the chain. Look at the letter below that graced the inside front cover of the Vol.17 No.2. This must have been the pride of George A. Pflaum, the publisher of this Daytonian mag:

from the inside cover of Treasure Chest Vol. 17 No. 2, the issue that contained the first installment of “This Godless Communism”

NOTE: Apologies for the bad scan above–it’s the best I could find online since I don’t actually own the physical copy. The other images of Treasure Chest herein are from my own copy and scanned at a reasonable dpi. 

You can read and/or download, if you want, “This Godless Communism” in it’s entirety here, and be on the lookout for other issues of Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact in your local dollar bin. To me, it’s one of those weird pieces of comics history that almost seems to run parallel with the industry as oppose to within it—make sense? It’s just weird that it exists I guess.

-CO

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if you don’t know, now you know

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The Winter Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers starts January 18th 2018! 8 weeks – 500 bux – coaching for as long as you need. The course is hard, but Frank will push your comics making practice to a new level, getting you to think about timing and color in new ways. Makes a great holiday gift for yourself – or for a loved one who is interested in comics. Apply by midnight (EST) on Dec. 25th and get $100 off the course price.

Full details and how to apply can be found HERE!

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Suzy and Cecil – 12-11-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

12/04/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with the Monday edition of the Daily News with musings about the uncanny resemblance of James Joyce and Chris Ware..—————————————————————————————————

the uncanny resemblance of James Joyce (left) and Chris Ware (right)

Proof of reincarnation? More than a few people have been comparing Chris Ware to James Joyce since Jimmy Corrigan, which I think is apt. Of course their works share similar qualities, being very detailed oriented among other things. Though they work in different mediums, I can’t help but see a tethered line from Joyce to Ware. They both work to exhaust their mediums—I mean this in a good way. Joyce with the English language in relation to speaking, thinking, seeing, etc.—and Ware with depicting, visually, memory and human actions and interaction, or lack thereof. They both relish relentless detail and intense focus on the subject.

A very interesting quality they share is that they are both hailed as possibly the best artists in their medium of the last 100 years, or at least the most groundbreaking— but despite being praised to the high heavens, their is a pride for many about NOT reading their work. “It’s too detailed.” It’s too depressing.” “This is unreadable.” “HAHA no I didn’t read that.” Their is real solidarity in not reading Ware’s masterpiece, Building Stories, that reminds me of the willful ignorance of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. People just can’t even think about wrapping their heads around something so involved and difficult. I think it’s safe to say that accessibility is king for the average reader of both books and comics.

Still, the most amazing thing to me is their uncanny physical resemblance. Is it just me, or could these two be brothers? (see above) It’s a bit spooky when you think about it. Proof of reincarnation? You decide!

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The Winter Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers starts January 18th 2018! 8 weeks – 500 bux – coaching for as long as you need. The course is hard, but Frank will push your comics making practice to a new level, getting you to think about timing and color in new ways. Makes a great holiday gift for yourself – or for a loved one who is interested in comics. Apply by midnight (EST) on Dec. 25th and get $100 off the course price.

Full details and how to apply can be found HERE!

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 12-4-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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Joanie and Jordie – 12-4-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

11/27/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on Peanuts, Ron Wimberly’s LAAB, and other news.

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Charles “Sparky” Schulz’s birthday was yesterday, he would have been 95. As we all know, Schulz created possibly the most iconic American comic strip, Peanuts. Ever think about how every single newspaper still carries Peanuts? Remember when Snoopy sold us life insurance and would appear at the corner of your screen while watching college football? Has the Charlie Brown balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ever popped? How many psychiatrists have used Lucy’s football place-holding shenanigans as a metaphor? In fact, how many of those people have a framed image of Lucy’s psychiatrist stand in their office? Who hasn’t seen Linus recite The Nativity Story? My grandmother has a Peanuts recipe book. I saw a woman the other day with a Woodstock tattoo on her calf. How many of you knew who the Red Baron was before Snoopy?—be honest. My friend took his daughter to a theme park where kids could ride in Snoopy’s doghouse. Happiness is a warm cookie®.

I could go on and on. Go ahead, think of all the places you’ve seen Good ‘Ole Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang. You can come up with a lot if you really think about it. They are everywhere. Comics are symbols, and Schulz mastered and exploited that fact to the max. Now his creations are everywhere, on everything, and still stand virtually untainted despite their overuse. They interact and inform our culture—what more could a cartoonist ask for?

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 11-27-2017 – by Sally Ingraham
—————————————————————————————————Joanie and Jordie – 11-27-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

11/20/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with some Marvel comics colored by thee great Françoise Mouly, and other news.

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“Years and years and years ago I colored comics for Marvel, and I didn’t feel comfortable in that world at all as a woman. But things have changed; I’m now running into women in their twenties and early thirties who discovered comics as adults.”

–Françoise Mouly, from this New Yorker interview

Some comics I own that were colored by Françoise Mouly in ’78 and ’79

Hey there True Believer! Have I got a treat for you. Maybe you knew this already, I think I did but obviously forgot, but thee great Françoise Mouly–perhaps you’ve heard of her–had a stint at Marvel Comics where she colored various titles from 1978 to 1979 (as far as I can tell). I was just minding my own business and perusing through the few issues of Tomb of Dracula I own (gotta love that Gene Colan/TomPalmer combo) when lo and behold, I see the credits for the colorist:

Tomb of Dracula #67 that my dad evidently claimed when he was eleven

Of course we all know Mouly’s work, famously the co-founder of RAW, art editor at The New Yorker, and recently the Resist! anthology with her daughter Nadja Speigelman—plus much more. A true champion of the medium of comics. What a pleasant surprise to find her in the pages of some of my favorite, dumb back-issues. This is half the reason I love old newsprint comics, you never know what combination of creators you will find, and what the results will be. Françoise Mouly colors?! What a treat.

I like how she considered tone and value. Something that wasn’t necessarily regarded often within the machine of newsprint boy’s-adventure comics. I assume this was merely a “job” to her on a freelance basis; and the years that she worked being ’78 and ’79, I can’t help but muse that the capital for publishing RAW (first published in 1980) was acquired through Marvel paychecks. Though this may not (probably not) be strictly true, I emit an evil laugh when I consider this. Water into wine. Mwahahaha!

After seeing her credited as a colorist in Tomb of Dracula #67, I figured that couldn’t be her only job she did for Marvel. I did some searching and found that I owned several other issues she colored. Most of these were my dad’s and among my favorite comics when he gave me his collection when I was seven. So, for all you Mouly and back-issue fans alike here is a list of her work at Marvel. Comics has such a wacky history–I love it.

Mouly colors from Marvel Team-Up #71; with Bill Kunkel (script), Dave Wenzel (pencils), Dan Green (inks), and Rick Parker (letters)

 

Mouly colors from Fantastic Four #200; with Marv Wolfman (script), Keith Pollard (pencils), Joe Sinnot (inks), and John Costanza (letters)

 

Mouly colors from The Uncanny X-Men #115; with Chris Claremont (script), John Byrne (pencils), Terry Austin (inks), and Rick Parker (letters)

 

Mouly colors from Star Wars #10; with Don Glut (script), Howard Chaykin (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), and John Costanza (letters)

 

Mouly colors from The Invaders #29; with Don Glut (script), Alan Kupperberg (pencils), Frank Springer (inks), and John Costanza (letters)

 

Mouly colors from Conan The Barbarian #95; with Roy Thomas (script), John Buscema (pencils), Ernie Chan (inks), and Joe Rosen (letters)

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 11-20-2017 – by Gabriella Tito

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11/13/2017

Caleb Orecchio here with holiday dread, and other news.—————————————————————————————————

Happy Hooligan by Frederick Opper. According to King of the Comics: 100 Years of King Features edited by Dean Mullaney, “The seventh episode of Happy Hooligan, New York Journal, April 22, 1900.”

 

As the holidays approach, I’m thinking about how I’m going to lie to my family. I don’t talk about my comics in a serious way around them anymore. I just do them for fun, I tell them. That’s great! they say back.

Once I told an extended family member that I visited a comics syndicate in New York and showed them my comic strip. WOW—New York, that must’ve been exciting! Very much so. Did they except your strip? No—they said it was “too good”—like, it wasn’t simple enough—it’d be hard to sell to newspaper editors. The family member didn’t know what to say after that. That’s okay though, I tell them. I still make a comic strip every week day for a comics website. Oh cool—do they pay you? No. Again, they are speechless.

Then I get defensive like I have to protect my dignity or something because I assume they think I’m an idiot who doodles all day for no money. I just do comics for fun really, I tell them—I’m actually a freelance graphic designer. That’s great—how’s business, they ask? Great. I switch the subject to how good the food is.

The guy who does my taxes has a similar reaction to my comics making. He keeps telling me I should focus on my graphic design and try to expand. “Is there any money in comics?” he asks.

“There is at the newspaper syndicates—I’m going to keep trying until I get in.”

“Who reads newspapers?”

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if you don’t know, now you know

  • Another CAB has come and gone. Had to ignore social media on Saturday so I wouldn’t get envious. Looks like Chris Anthony Diaz was busy taking photos which is good news for our eyes.
  • I think this article is “interesting” just because making comics as a means of market research is basically what Marvel and DC do as publishing entities. Netflix joining the fray really doesn’t surprise me.
  • Speaking of DC Comics.
  • Really enjoyed this interview with How To Read Nancy authors, Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden conducted by Dan Nadel over at TCJ.com.
  • Speaking of The Comics Journal, they proudly present an excerpt of Chuck Forsman’s new bookI Am Not Okay With This. Originally serialized for Forsman’s Patreon supporters.
  • Seattle Review of Books has a report of Short Run–a show that I have only heard good things about.

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Suzy and Cecil – 11-13-2017 – by Sally Ingraham

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Joanie and Jordie – 11-13-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

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Cozytown – 11-13-2017 – by Juan Fernandez

11/06/17

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on Alyssa Berg’s risograph comics. PLUS! some insight into Alyssa’s process from the author herself!—and other news.

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riso version of Alpenglow by Alyssa Berg

I think Alyssa Berg’s current work is a step in the right direction for a modern day cartoonist—being an exploration in printing, risograph specifically, and how that process can present her comics in the best way a riso machine can.

Alyssa makes painted comics that live online as photographs of the actual paintings, then “adapts” the paintings into risograph printed comics—the latter being slightly different than the former naturally due to how a painting transfers to this particular printing process. As a cartoonist, I can literally see her “thinking” when comparing the “actual” versions with the riso versions. Looking at her two versions of Alpenglow (winner of the 2015 Comics Workbook Composition Competition) I’m fascinated at the choices Alyssa made when “adapting” the paintings to print.

At CXC 2016 I bought her first printing of Alpenglow, which was digitally printed. At SPX 2017, I bought the second printing, which is adapted to riso. Look at the differences below.

digital printing on left; riso on right

digital on top; riso on bottom

digital on top; riso on bottom

digital on top; riso on bottom

The differences are interesting because both versions are good, obviously, but I find the riso version to be particularly intimate. Her paintings are beautiful, and I miss seeing the brush strokes and nuance of color the digital version provides, but the way the riso strips everything down really sings for me. For one, riso just flat out looks better than digital. Anything looks better than digital really. Second, the choices Alyssa makes are in service to the clarity of the image while also retaining the spirit of the painting (which we’ll get to in a second in Alyssa’s own words). This pruning of the work through the filter of riso really circumnavigates any  distractions (though they are enjoyable) the paintings provide, and allow the reader a wholly immersive comics reading experience.

I should be clear, I don’t necessarily think the painted version is better than the riso version, or vice versa; but it’s the fact that these very excellent comics exist in different ways is what is exciting to me.

I asked Alyssa to give some brief insight into her process of adapting paintings to riso prints, and this is how she responded:

“I started printing my painted comics last winter at the SVA RisoLab. I had this short-lived fantasy that I would be able to use a simple CMYK color separation in Photoshop to make faux-CMYK prints on the Riso. I realized quickly that while certain prints looked okay using this method, most of them came out with too much visual information/noise because of the texture & subtlety of the color mixing in the paint combined with the imperfect registration of the Riso. Also, registering the text with this method is not ideal.

“Over the summer and currently during my residency at the RisoLab, I’ve been experimenting with ways to keep the integrity of the painting in the reproduction. I use a mix of “CMYK” in certain areas, spot colors with texture layers on top in other areas, and other spot colors without any mixing. This method reduces the noise and keeps the print painterly. The text is almost always one color so it’s crisp and clear. All of my color separation is done [manually] in Photoshop. I’m not much of a technology-person so there has been a big learning curve. By now doing color separation has become pretty intuitive, but still, I’m not always sure what the outcome will be. I like that little surprise. I rarely look at Riso color mixing charts/percentages. I rely on my knowledge of color mixing and grayscale from my painting background. I tried once to design a specific zine for the risograph & it came out kind of boring. It required too much thought while I was painting the pages and I prefer to not think in this phase! For now, I’m happier painting freely then putting in the hours on Photoshop.”

Thanks Alyssa! If you want to pick up her comics, Alyssa will be at Comics Arts Brooklyn this weekend at Table K6.

As a cartoonist, there’s a lot to learn from watching Alyssa transform her work for print. I highly, highly recommend seeking her books out, and compare the books to the paintings; she has most of them up on her site.

I leave you with some pages from my favorite Alyssa Berg comic, Open Letter to Sleep.

-CO

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if you don’t know, now you know

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Suzy and Cecil – 11-6-2017 – by Gabrielle Tito

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Cozytown – 11-6-2017 – by Juan Fernandez

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Joanie and Jordie – 11-6-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio

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