ignatz award

Long Live Octopus Pie

Three cheers!

I check the webpage out of habit, but Meredith Gran’s comic work Octopus Pie is over.  I feel like this is how sports fans feel when a jersey is retired and lifted to the rafters, forever in its untouchable place, time divided between when it was active and whatever comes after.  

That might sound grandiose, but in my mind, nothing tops the ten year run of Octopus Pie.  And in the lifespan of what we call Webcomics, 2007-2017 is a granddaddy of a run, worthy of names like “pioneering,” “influential” and “groundbreaking” because in the space of those years, in this new medium, there was room to be those things without any hyperbole.  The comics landscape of the past decade needed filling out and Meredith carved her space out with precision, showing a polish and drive and a talent from the beginning that set a high standard.  

I’m guessing that I started Hark a Vagrant about six months after Octopus Pie began, but Meredith’s was already a name to be reckoned with, due to the solid reputation of her previous comic Skirting Danger and because she was an honest to god trained animator in a sea of stickmen comics or two-dudes-on-a-couch comics (RIP forever *kisses fingers, holds them to the sky*). I was intimidated by her sheer capability.  But inspired too.  I did not need to be intimidated, she was one of the first people I met in comics, and easily one of the best.

Meredith and I briefly shared an apartment and a studio, and I can tell you, she can draw circles around everyone you know.  I later shared a studio with Mike Holmes, who could also draw circles around everyone, and now the two of them are married in some sort of talent supernova.  I am happy for them, even though I feel like I make grade three crayon pictures next to them.  But the other thing that being friends with Meredith for a long time has shown is the cutting wit, the care for stories done right, the love for a medium that will take you through highs and lows that come with comics, and lately through her job as a comics professor, the nurturing of upcoming talent.  I see all of this in Octopus Pie, a comic where character was paramount, where plots were expertly moved, a fine balance was found between the messiness of people and the fun you can have with stories, where subtle emotional movements where rendered with room to breathe, where I felt like I could reach deep into the hearts and minds of the characters on the page because they had been fleshed out so well over the years that they seemed as real people, people that I loved.

I don’t really like that phrase “comics will break your heart,” commonly attributed to Schultz, or Kirby, it doesn’t really matter.  You see it all the time, mostly when people are reckoning with the fact that they work in an unforgiving medium.  I don’t even know what it is about the saying that I don’t like.  Maybe it’s because we all know that comics are hard work, we all know that you might put your life and blood and heart into something and you might get nothing back.  There are no surprises to be found there - it’s not a bad day you had, it’s a life you’re well aware of living, if you do.  But we love the perserverers in comics.  The people who live the phrase are the ones who inspire us the most.

I’m saying all this, and pardon the segue, because I have seen Octopus Pie, some of the finest story work of my generation, passed for recognition time and again and it confuses the hell out of me, truly.  I don’t want to turn a tribute to a work I hold dear into sour grapes, that’s not the intention here, but lord above, if I can’t point this out now, then when can I?  We all know that there are no guarantees in this life (comics will break your heart) but I’ll say this once and then leave it: this is a comic of quality that was miles ahead of so many of its peers, and it deserved better, industry wise.  To wrap up the earlier point, maybe I don’t like CWBYH because it implies that you should shrug your shoulders and not ask for better every time, that a short end of some kind of stick is expected even.  That’s easy when it’s yourself, but speaking as a fan now, I say to heck with shrugging, I want to put Meredith on my shoulders and parade her around and dump her into a Scrooge McDuck thing full of awards.  

Actually that sounds pointy and bad and the Ignatz awards are bricks to begin with so maybe forget that analogy but you get the idea.

I hope you read Octopus Pie, I hope you buy the books.  I hope the legacy of it is long and full, because it always will be for me.  And I think readers will agree, because I know this devoted fan base pretty well.  I read the comments, I’ve sat next to Mer at comic shows, I’ve listened to some of the emails that touched her.  I know this is a comic that meant a lot, to a lot of us.  In this world of work we put our hearts and souls into to begin with, that is a wonderfully worthy thing.

I do not know what Meredith will do next, but whatever it is, I am here for it, seat pulled close to the stage.  The retired jersey is in the rafters, the game is still being played by the people who dreamed better because it was there.  Aw what can I say, I’m sentimental!

 Thanks, Meredith. <3

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GET TO KNOW AN IGNATZ NOMINEE

Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann (nominated for outstanding story and outstanding series) @girlmountain @fantagraphics

Simon Hanselmann’s Megg and Mogg is a low-key stoner comedy, frequently hilarious, often tragic and always poignantly insightful about the inertia and malaise of its self-destructive principals.  When Megg and Mogg travel to Amsterdam (followed by the uptight and unwelcome Owl), their relationship starts to deteriorate in this New York Times bestselling collection of brilliant stories (originally serialized on Vice).

For fans of Boy’s Club, Ernie Pook’s Comeek, Blobby Boys, Octopus Pie, Girls, Broad City, Trailer Park Boys

Check out our interview with Simon Hanselmann

Check out Ignatz nominees on comiXology

Check out graphic novels on comiXology

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Some quick portraits of the just-too-elegant Sasha and Johnny Velour I drew in the front row at the Ignatz Award ceremonies this weekend at spx!  Sasha Velour ( sahsashas ) was a shimmering undersea dream in teal paired with a long blonde Donatella wig, and Johnny Velour ( vymmagazine ) was her perfect accessory, topped with a mint tulle bow.  Despite her obvious shyness, Sasha graciously accepted her “unexpected” hostess duties from James Sturm and awarded bricks with aplomb.<3

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GET TO KNOW AN IGNATZ NOMINEE

The Experts by Sophie Franz @sophiefranz (nominated by outstanding minicomic) @bigplanetcomics

A horror story with tons of atmosphere and touches of sardonic humor about 3 “experts” in a remote scientific facility, gradually losing touch with their mission and, perhaps, with reality.

For fans of John Carpenter’s The Thing, Olivier Schrauwen, Sweet Tooth

Check out the Experts and other Ignatz nominees on comiXology

Check out graphic novels on comiXology

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GET TO KNOW AN IGNATZ NOMINEE

Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran (nominated for outstanding webcomic) @octopuspiecomic

Meredith Gran has published more than 900 strips of her ongoing webcomic about the acerbic Eve Ning and her slacker roommate Hanna Thompson, garnering a large, devoted following and critical acclaim.  Four volumes of Octopus pie have been collected so far by Image Comics.

For fans of Broad City, Girls, Louie, Peter Bagge’s Hate

The winners of the 2016 Ignatz Awards will be announced next month at @spx

Check out other Ignatz nominees on comiXology

My next book is titled GORGEOUS and it’s coming from Koyama Press in May 2016! Here’s info from the KP website:

GORGEOUS
ISBN: 978-1-927668-27-6
$12.00
6.5 x 9, 64 pages, b&w, trade paper
May 2016

Ideologies and cars collide when a minor accident brings a pair of punks and a college student tumultuously together.

Sophie has tried to stay out of trouble, but tonight trouble has found her. On a lonely stretch of highway under a star-studded sky, she meets anarchist punks in a crack-up of metal and emotion that proves sometimes the freedom of youth causes damage along the way.

CATHY G. JOHNSON is an artist in Providence, RI. She grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011. She was awarded the Small Press Expo 2014 Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent. Her inspiration is drawn from community and critical theory.

“Johnson has consistently been making some of the most beautiful and affecting comics, especially when it comes to comics that explore identity, gender and sexuality.” — Mey, Autostraddle

Sam Alden’s Hawaii 1997: Extended Thoughts on Male POV Romance

Sam Alden’s Ignatz award winning comic Hawaii 1997 presents another example of the male romance pov. In Hawaii 1997, Alden doesn’t make the same mistake that the film Spring made, no part of the emotional resonance of the comic is weighted upon anything about the woman in the story.  Alden’s comic represents a more traditional set of values for the straight male romance narrative–which is that fundamentally, the story is not about a male and a female, but about a male, and his feelings.  The woman in these stories is a objectified place holder on which the male POV is allowed to reflect it’s merits as a character.

So for instance, Annie Hall, exists to be the girl at the end of Woody Allen’s affections, which allow for his character to come tho the forefront and entertain us.  The male POV in a romance is designed to act as a fantasy for the viewer onto themselves.  These stories rest how compelling they are on the extent to which we find our central figure compelling.  He has to be someone that feels in some ways better than us, but in other ways flawed in the ways in which we  could overcome.  I don’t think it’s a mistake that as hollywood has perfected this narrative, that role has most successfully been played by comedic actors.

Alden doesn’t give us a compelling male lead–but through his art style and perspective, by suggesting to us form and character–he forces you to meet the book slightly past halfway(he literally draws the reader in at one part, as our eyes blur with Sam’s).  The story largely succeeds or fails at that point based upon how fully you can fill in all of the gaps Alden has left.

The story we get is woman as young girl, as gold coin to unlock and achieve through mastery of a game–she pretty much appears to the male character for expressly this purpose.  Her existence in the comic is completely defined as the fantasy that she is able to successfully create for Sam and the reader.  She engages Sam and the comic to chase her, before finally positing herself balefully out of grasp.  She transforms into: the one who got away; who says this is a haunting I have given you, and you will be marked with it.  And because the comic has so shoved us into it’s skin to this point, the way we take that information is as the gold coin removing itself, as a time spanning wound–we feel her lack, as a cruel joke on what we deserve–which is to possess her.

This is a very effective message, both because of the suggestive nature of the art, and because it is a central cultural myth for the men of at least western culture–that the world is his to possess–that women are subservient to his desires; and that if he fails to love, it is not for a lack in him, but out of cruel violation by the woman of her part in this play.  Hawaii 1997 affirms the male tears for every girl he thought should have loved him, but for some reason beyond his understanding eluded his grasp.

It is okay to have that as what your art is about.  It is as I say, a story as old as patriarchal time.  But it is also a parlor of cheap tricks and easy affirmations pushing a status quo that over half of the population has seen the other side of.  Making your male pov character an empty cipher through which traditional straight male values can flow through to depict women as cruel is cheap poker.  Is that a phrase, “cheap poker”?  Let’s pretend it is.  It’s cheap, it’s easy.  And if you’ve ever been a woman who has seen the tears of a man’s entitled unrequited affections–you can’t help but roll your eyes.  It’s the comic equivalent of calling your ex a bitch just because she dumped you–but Alden doesn’t even give us a meaningful romance to justify even that.  This is the barest most minimal bones necessary to cry about a woman not doing what you felt entitled to her doing.

It’s very successful, and I think that’s what a lot of critics responded to when it won an Ignatz, but I think the question should have been asked “successful at what?”

And though the stylistic choices work to the extent that they are effective in creating both an atmosphere, and a visual that requires the reader to animate it–it is fair to say there’s a lot in it that looks really lazy.  The shapes and forms in general are pretty boring to look at.  They are largely masked though by shadow, and a two panel per page format which rushes you along like a worried supervisor.  There are a few panels worth lingering on, but they are far and few between.  As a stylistic choice, it’s short term pay offs in atmosphere are hampered by the long term hindrances they present if you y’know wanted to re-read it.  Which in a story so slight of frame, and so short on challenging narrative–is a fairly damning thing.

This comic then ends up at the same place that Spring(2015) did–it all hinges on one thing, and you either buy it, or you don’t.  At least, Spring (2015) had cool special effects too.

And while certainly Alden has moved onto bigger and brighter things from this story that was released a few years ago, I think it was and still is emblematic of a strain of comics which confuse ugliness with sincerity, and feelings(especially male feelings) with having something to say.

Validated dudes passing off easy coded messages to the rest of dudedom, and they call it deep.

I mean on the plus side it wasn’t a cute motivational comic, I guess.


-Sarah

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Congratulations to all the Fantagraphics artists nominated for this year’s Ignatz Awards at SPX!

Outstanding Artist
Ed Luce, “Wuvable Oaf”
Noah Van Sciver, “Saint Cole”

Outstanding Anthology or Collection
“How To Be Happy,” by Eleanor Davis

Outstanding Graphic Novel
“Saint Cole,” by Noah Van Sciver

Outstanding Story
“Doctors,” by Dash Shaw
“Nature Lessons,” by Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger (from The Late Child and Other Animals)

washingtonpost.com
From Tamaki to Rilly, here are your 2015 SPX Ignatz Award nominees
From Jillian Tamaki to Ethan Rilly to Google artist Sophia Foster-Dimino, here are your nominees for Small Press Expo's 2015 Ignatz Awards.
By https://www.facebook.com/comicriffs

I got nominated for the Outstanding Online Ignatz Award! I might be going home from SPX with a brick in my luggage! If you’re attending SPX this year, vote for me!

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Hey guys,

I’ll be at Small Press Expo this weekend in Bethesda, tabling with Kali, Andrea, and Jimmy, at tables W80-W81. My tablemates will all have great stuff to check out, so come see all of us!

As far as my stuff, I’ll have a few new things:

-The Hanging Tower, a 28-page Western set in a ruined fantasy world. I’ve been posting some development stuff from it over the past few weeks. The main character is an old knight who is navigating her way on a search for a lost girl. It’s got horses, rubble, bells, old timey language, vultures and I’m sure there’s some other stuff in there, too. In a lot of ways, it’s a story about place and purpose. I hope you like it.

-Pins! I have these two pins, either in gold or silver and enamel black. They’re about one-inch wide and they sparkle up real nice.

-New prints! I’ll have Gatherers, Polypheme and Odyssea, and Critical Education in 12x18" super nice archival editions.

Older stuff! I’ll have some old classic prints, a few copies of Treasure Chest, and Fantasy Basketball, and some freebie postcards! Fantasy Basketball, I should add, is up for an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist. If you come to the show, I hope you like it enough to vote for it. 

If you can’t make it to SPX, fear not! This stuff will be available online sometime next week.

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I’ll be attending SPX tomorrow and the day after! Come see me at table J11 with comix buddy Sam Alden. To my shock and delight I was nominated for 3 Ignatz awards this year… many thanks to the jury! I hope to see you there, come say hi!

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House of Women, Part II is debuting at an SPX near you:

Science fiction meets psycho-sexual drama when a group of women try to bring “civilization” to the natives of a remote planet on the fringes of the known universe.

House of Women, Part I received an Ignatz Award in 2014 for “Outstanding Minicomic”.

Part two of a three-part series. 58 pages, black and white with a double die-cut cover on gold paper.