Sketchy Behavior | Hellen Jo 

Never afraid to speak and/or draw her mind, Los Angeles based artist and illustrator, Hellen Jo and her characters can be described as rough, vulgar, tough, jaded, powerful, bratty and bad-ass - AKA her own brand of femininity. Known for her comic Jin & Jam, and her work as an illustrator and storyboard artist for shows such as Steven Universe and Regular Show, Hellen’s rebellious, and sometimes grotesque artwork and illustrations are redefining Asian American women and women of color in comics. In fact, that’s why Hellen Jo was a must-interviewee for our latest Sketchy Behavior where we talk to her about her love of comics and zines, her antiheroines, and redefining what Asian American women identity is or can be; and what her ultimate dream project realized would be.  

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July Book Reviews by Maia Kobabe

Playing catch-up here…

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Fantasy used to be my bread and butter genre. In high school I’d barely pick up a book unless it had a dragon, elf, wizard, witch or sword on the cover. At a certain point I got somewhat burned out on the genre after too many books that felt like blatant Tolkien imitations. This book was a gift from a friend and I opened it a little uncertainly. Rather than a novel, I found this book is actually a collection of linked short stories each telling of one adventure of Geralt, a traveling monster-slayer. The author has a clear love of classic fairy tales- in one of the stories Geralt stumbles into a situation reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, while in another he encounters a Snow White. Almost invariably the original hero of the fairy tale is in this re-telling the monster. Not all of the deadly beasts are familiar however- interwoven are creatures from Polish and Russian folk tradition which add an intriguing eerie strangeness. This book is the first in a long series and I hope to read more.

Sister Outside by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde had the kind of mind and talent that only appears once or twice in a generation. I started this collection of essays directly after finishing Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and every page blew me away. I started with a library book but half way through had to go out and buy a copy because I wanted to be able to underline, circle passages, write notes and dozens of exclamation points. I can tell this is a text I will be returning to many times, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

A fast-paced coming of age comic in the vein of Raina Telgemeier. Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend Nicole to watch a roller derby game in a rink in Portland and Astrid immediately falls in love. Her best friend, not so much. Astrid signs up for a roller derby summer camp and discovers how much work it is to master a tough, dangerous sport. Meanwhile she begins to feel abandoned by Nicole who chose to attend a Dance camp instead. What starts as a story of rivalry becomes instead a tale of how people sometimes grow apart as their interests change and mature.

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J Georges

An emotional story of a decade long friendship between the author and a prickly, defensive, badly-behaved and demanding dog. Nicole adopted Beija at 17, and they were companions through many huge life changes. Nicole moved with her first love half way across the country to Portland, OR, began a career as an indie cartoonist, broke up, came out as a lesbian and discovered a shattering family secret. All the while Beija was was by her side, teaching her both how to show love and how to set up personal boundaries. Moved me to unexpected tears.

Shade the Changing Girl vol 1 by Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone

Loma Shade is a bird-like native of Meta, a distant planet with a lingering interest in the scraps of nostalgic Earth culture they’ve collected. Shade uses her boyfriend’s position as a security guard at a museum of Earth objects to steal the Madness Vest. She uses this to (somehow) transmit her soul to Earth, where she inhabits the body of a 16 year old girl, Megan. Megan has been lying in a coma after nearly drowning at a wild party with her swim team. Only her boyfriend Wes is happy about her surprise recovery- the rest of the team, and even Megan’s parents, fear and resent her. Shade struggles to understand life as an Earth high school student even as she struggles to resist the raw Madness that swirls from her transport, the Vest. This book is part of the larger Young Animals series from DC, but I read and enjoyed it as a stand-alone.

Tales of Ancient Persia by Barbara Leonie Picard

A solid introduction to Persian myths, from the pre-Islamic era. It follows the rein of many kings through generations of struggles with the neighboring empires of Turan and Rome. Highlighted are tales of Rustem, the renown hero who fought demons, dragons and many ferocious battles.

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

A heartbreakingly honest story of isolation, identity, depression and mental-health. The author overcame years of destructive behavior before she was able to come out to herself and begin to find freedom and a sexual life as an adult.

Night’s Dominion vol 1 by Ted Naifeh

This story begins with a classic D&D set up… a thief, an assassin, a mage and a cleric meet in a tavern to hear about a job offer from a mysterious stranger. But what this story actually offers is a D&D flavored superhero team battling for the soul of a city. An army of undead, a corrupt government and a Batman-verses-Catwoman like rivalry unfolds over tiled rooftops, cobbled streets and in caverns deep under the ground.

Baking With Kafka by Tom Gould

I am endlessly impressed with the contents of Tom Gould’s brain. Each strip in this collection is funnier than the last. The stand-alone comics range over subjects from book hording, time-travel, zombie apocalypses, what Charles Dickens would do in the modern era, alternate titles for Moby Dick and of course Kafka’s cooking show. Hilarious and delightful.

Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

An Eisner nominated short comic about race which should have won the award. Unflinching and timely.


A comiXologist Recommends (their favorites from 2015)

by Harris Smith

There were too many comics this year to pick one favorite, so here’s just a bunch of my favorite things that happened in 2015:

1. Stories from a comic I published, Felony Comics #1, were featured in Best American Comics 2015, so that was pretty cool.

2. Ben Marra, cover artist for Felony Comics #1, published his first graphic novel, Terror Assaulter: One Man War on Terror, from Fantagraphics.  That was also cool.

3. Chuck Forsman’s self-published Revenger continued to channel the spirit of 80′s action movies like Death Wish 3, combined with the stark, deadpan sensibility that made his previous comics, like TEOTFW and Luv Sucker so powerful.

4. Future Shock Zero- If you want to get an overview of the best of today’s indie/art comics scene, Josh Burggraf’s sci-fi anthology is the perfect place to start, with comics by some of my favorite artists, including Lala Albert, Alex Degen, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Victor Kerlow, Jasoph Murphy, Aleks Sendwald, Pete Toms and Ben Urkowitz.

5. Every moment of Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe

6. Antisocial gorilla bikers in The Humans

7. Upping the indie quotient on comiXology like wow with the digital debut of MOME from Fanagraphics

8. We got  my favorite book by my favorite cartoonist, The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry,  on comiXology, thanks to the digital launch of Drawn & Quarterly

9. Another one of my favorite indie cartoonists, Michel Fiffe, took on Ann Nocenti-era Daredevil (possibly the best creative run on a superhero comic of all time) in Marvel’s Secret Wars: Secret Love #1

10. Good superhero shows on TV- Jessica Jones, for its emotional complexity; Gotham, for being a noir-ish soap opera with Batman characters; and Supergirl, for being smart and fun.

11. DC Comics in general, for giving us a Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League book, teaming up Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cook on the Twilight Children, the new PREZ book, launching the old Joe Simon PREZ on comiXology, launching Jack Kirby’s OMAC on comiXology, and I know it isn’t out yet, but a new Swamp Thing book by Len Wein and Kelly Jones?  Too good to be true.

Harris Smith is a senior production coordinator and the editor of comiXology’s Tumblr, as well as the publisher of Felony Comics and a film programmer at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn.  His New Year’s Resolution is to read and make more comics in 2016.

How to be the white guy on the diversity panel:

So, thanks to the types of stories I’m interested in telling and the types of conversations I’m interested in being a part of, I often find myself either part of or hosting diversity or representation panels. For instance, at this year’s Awesome Con I suggested a panel on representation in comics which I titled “Representation is Important”.

To my pleasure, I arrived a minute late to the panel and almost didn’t get in because the panel was overflowing. On the panel with me were Alex Simmons (long time black comic book writer/actor/editor/amazing guy who has worked on everything), Amy Chu (Asian American female comic book writer and all around great person), Alitha Martinez (long time black female comics pro who has worked for both of the big two), and Laura Lee Gulledge (white female indie cartoonist and writer).

Now, I’ve seen panels with similar make ups where the white guy takes it on himself to explain how the comic book industry “really works” to the others on the panel. That’s not really my style. Also, both Alitha and Alex have substantially more history and cred in the industry than I do and Amy and Laura Lee are on pretty well equal footing. So, what do you do? When this is the topic in play, being the white guy on the panel makes you stand out. Also, it can lead to awkward transitions where somebody has just finished talking about the tough time they’ve had dealing with white editors/writers/artists/executives.

Here’s my answer: the first thing everyone did was introduce themselves and how they got into comics. Everybody’s story is pretty different and complex, as they are in any panel where you discuss how you got in. So, I’m at the end of the line and it rolls around to my turn. I take the microphone, smile at the full audience of interested and attentive people and say:

“My name is Jeremy Whitley and I got into comics the old fashioned way: by being a white man.”

I have never seen a room full of people melt so easily. I had to stop talking for a solid minute to let everyone finish laughing. It was amazing. Just throw that elephant up on the stage and let everyone have a good look. Then I explained what I was doing there and why I had an interest in this subject. And for my encore, I decided to take it on my shoulders to be the person who complained about some of the really awful stuff that’s going on in the comics community right now. Not only do I not feel the need to explain the actions of other men (white and otherwise), but I’m not going to make the people who have to face that junk bring it up and make them feel like they’re whining.

Also, and I see this far too often, don’t talk over women/girls. Whether they are on the panel or in the audience, you can generally tell when someone wants to talk and here’s the thing: as a white man there are no shortage or places or resources through which you can express your opinion and while it’s perfectly within reason to take your turn, when the subject is hot and somebody has something they want to say, don’t step on them. It’s the first rule of being an ally and no matter how strongly you FEEL about representation, diversity, or rape threats - these are still issues that only concern you indirectly and you should ALWAYS defer to those for whom it is a day to day issue.

TL:DR - Recognize your privilage. Expose it. Facilitate the conversation. Step back and be an ally rather than attempting to run the panel.

Island #7 by Mat Sheean & Malachi Ward

MAY 4 / 72 PAGES / FC / T+ / $7.99
BRANDON GRAHAM’s award-winning anthology returns! This issue introduces the first Image work by the amazing indy cartoonist MICHAEL DeFORGE (Ant Colony, Lose) along with the third chapter of MATT SHEEAN & MALACHI WARD’s “ANCESTOR.”