Friday, April 29, 2011

IPRC Comics Program

We are about to start the production semester of the Comics Program at the IPRC, there is still room for last minute enrollment and a few special classes are open to individual class enrollment:

Minicomics and Paste-Up with John Isaacson
Image Science with Jesse Reklaw
Prepress and Indesign with Dylan Williams
Readings and Tours with Nicole Georges

If you're interested in classes or the program, write to:
As a student enrolled in the full program you get to pick twelve evenings from this list:
(1 Evening) (May18th) (Wednesday)

(1 Evening)(June 29th)(Wednesday)

DAY JOBS Nicole Georges
(1 Evening) (July 6th)(Wednesday)

(4 Evenings)(May 8nd, 15th, 22nd, & 29th)(Sunday)

(1 Evening)(July 13th)(Wednesday)

(2 Evenings)(May4th & 11th)(Wednesday)

PANEL OF PUBLISHERS by Nicole Georges & Friends
(1 Evening) (June 22nd) (Wednesday)

(3 Evenings)(June 5th, June 12th &19th)(Sunday)

PRINTERS Dylan Williams & Friends
(2 Evenings) (June 20th & June 27th) (Monday)

(1 Evening) (June 8th) (Wednesday)

(2 Evening)(May 25th & June 1st)(Wednesday)

(1 Evening) (June 15th) (Wednesday)

WEB COMICS Dylan Meconis
(2 Evenings) (July 5th & 11th) (Tuesday and Monday)

For more information on the certificate program:

Gay Genius Released! Free Comic Book in Stores!

Hi everyone,

We've got great news!
After a brief hold-up Gay Genius will see its official release this weekend and next.
In Portland there will be a release/dance party tomorrow night! Lots of artists and excitement.
Saturday, April 30 · 7:30pm - 11:30pm
In Other Words
14 Killingsworth St.
Portland, OR
The party is FREE.

I'll be in Canada at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival next weekend and (customs willing) I'll have a supply of Gay Genius with me there too, as well as the other new books: The Disgusting Room and Reich #8. Toronto, Ontario is a great city and well worth the trip for love of comics.
Saturday May 7th is Free Comic Book Day and select stores will be carrying Dan Quayl, a free book published by Sparkplug, Teenage Dinosaur, Revival House Press and Gazeta Comics. It has art by Amy Kuttab, Jesse McManus, Jason Overby and Blaise Larmee. Also it is a tribute to Portland's one and only John Callahan. I should have some in Toronto too.

Dan Quayl will be available on May 7th, Free Comic Book Day at these wonderful stores, please check them out:

Atomic Books (Baltimore, MD)
Big Planet (Bethesda, MD)
Bridge City Comics (Portland, OR)
Chapel Hill Comics (Chapel Hill, NC)
Chicago Comics (Chicago)
Comix Revolution (Evanston, IL)
Copacetic Comics Company (Pittsburgh, PA)
Cosmic Monkey Comics (Portland, OR)
Danger Room Comics (Oly, WA)
Desert Island (Brooklyn, NY)
The Escapist (Berkeley, CA)
Fantastic Comics (Berkeley, CA)
Floating World Comics (Portland, OR)
Forbidden Planet (New York, NY)
Guapo Comics & Coffee (Portland, OR)
Hi De Ho Comics (Santa Monica)
Mission Comics and Art (SF)
Phantom of the Attic (Pittsburgh, PA)
Quimby's (Chicago)
Showcase Comics (Bryn Mawr, PA)
Titan Comics (Dallas)
Zanadu Comics (Seattle)

AND if you are in Portland on Free Comic Book Day and would like to meet the artists and publishers of Dan Quayl, they will be at Guapo Comics and Coffee during the day, signing books and talking comics. Guapo is located at 6350 SE Foster road in Portland.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More Yumi!

Rounding out our Yumi Sakugawa catalog, we've added An Unfilled Circle and There is No Right Way to Meditate to the store. Hooray! Both really gorgeous books with a meditative quality, from an under-appreciated artist who is totally worth your time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bill Blackbeard

I got some sad news this weekend. An old friend died last month. Bill Blackbeard was a guy like no other I've ever met. In this era of trendy books on old comics, second rate scholarship and a sense that the love has gone out of old comics, Bill was and will always abe a shining star. He wasn't the first guy to be a fan of comics and turn it into a life long pursuit. But in so many ways, for me, he was the greatest. I love almost all of the first generation of comics fans, the ones who did it because they liked it, not because they wanted to make a buck or get a publishing deal. From Jerry Bails to Ron Goulart, those guys were my teachers. Bill was the principle at the school.

Bill first entered my life like he did almost everyone's, through the Smithsonian Book of Comic Strips. I was 8, my grandfather and grandmother knew I loved comics and were pretty high-minded so they figured that a book like this from the Smithsonian would be just the thing to get my head out of the comic shop and smarten me up. It worked, almost too well. And like for almost everyone from my generation (70s kids) the book opened up vistas beyond imagination. Everyone had their favorites. Mine were Wash Tubbs, Jimmy Swinnerton, and Milt Gross. Maybe most of all, two White Boy strips that would haunt me forever. My family had already got me hooked on Barnaby, Krazy Kat and Katzenjammer Kids.  The book was like a bible for comics, is exactly still a bible for comics. If you don't own it, you should.

So, it was shocking years later when I started reading collections of books like Terry & the Pirates, Wash Tubbs, Polly & Her Pals, and Krazy Kat and saw his name everywhere. Besides Rick Marshall he seemed to be the guy who knew everything about old comics. And then I found out he lived in San Francisco across the bay and ran a library/museum that I could go to. I figured it out in 1993. And I showed up. The museum was in its last days. All the work had been done and I could just sit their and reap the bennifits. To me, Bill was the nicest guy in the world, he was a classic comics, movie, pulp and old pop culture fan in exactly the same way I felt like I was. Of course, what he knew was so far beyond what I was understanding at the time. Still is, most likely. But he always shared. From the minute I went there I felt like this was a guy who wanted to help me find anything I was looking for. I read stacks of Scorchy Smith, Barney Google, and even White Boy. I kept on coming back, bringing friends. Every weekend I could. Eventually Bill turned my on to The Bungle Family. He had the patience of a saint and the wisdom of a true guru. And he was no bullshit. No highminded trying to legitamize comics. I think he taught me that comics are inherrently legitmate.

And then he started explaining newspaper history to me. I'd never really understood what had gone on at newspapers. It is a complex story but the gist of it is that newspaper editors hated comics and chased them out of the paper, shrinking them at every turn. Dumbing them down whenever possible. If you read the interview below, you can see this in his love for the comic strip Ernie, as one of the last really intelligent comics at the time. He gets into this in the interview.

So, I moved away from the Bay Area at the end of 1997 and stopped going to Bill's. I would visit and we wrote a few times. He moved to Santa Cruz and gave a giant amount of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art to the Ohio State library. Watching him work, talking with him and learning from him I'd realized a lot of things about life had never been clear to me. Life wasn't about being the most well known, making the most money or showing off. It was about enjoying what you do and sharing it. And for a collector, like me, I was realizing that it wasn't about having everything and knowing the most. It was about enjoying what you could and sharing it.

In the second part of the 90s there would be a boom in old timey influenced comics. Chris Ware, Seth, Joe Matt, Dan Clowes, Ivan Brunetti and all of their descendants would fall under the spell of old comics all based on the work of Bill. They'd be the first to acknowledge it. It may seem like just the way the world is, with everyone being into old comics, but in the 80s and early 90s most every alternative comics artist was headed as far away from comics history as they could. Just by sharing what he liked, tirelessly Bill hadn't just changed the past of comics, he'd changed the future. In the 2000s a whole new crop of comics historians would pop up. Ones who owed everything to Bill (and the people who'd been working for so little for so long). So, when you read a collection of Buzz Sawyer, Gasoline Alley or Popeye think about Bill, even if he didn't write the introduction, much of the research was done by him and a handful of others.

One last thing to add about Bill. He always spoke truth to power. He wasn't a thorn in the side of authority or anything but he always spoke up. He knew so much about the way newspapers were run, the way libraries dealt with papers and the way comics at large worked. For example, he was the man behind the facts of Libraries' abandonment of paper in favor of microfilm. Kristy Valenti (another great writer) wrote an article on it here. As Bill once told me, "Paper only yellows and gets brittle if you leave it out in the sun." Bill never stopped at promoting his view on comics and all the inaccuracies in the way they had been interpreted. As I get older I understand this more and more. Little things like "yellowing paper" mean nothing to people but they change the way you see comics from the past. Saying that things aren't working, that goes much deeper. Only Bill Blackbeard and Bill Waterson ever had the guts to explain how newspaper editors killed comics, in spite of an ever giant audience for them. And years later, in the day of the vanishing newspaper, killed one of the few things that may have kept people reading comics. His complaining pissed off a lot of librarians and I'm sure a lot of newspaper editors. He wasn't always right and RC Harvey points out some contested points in his piece over at the TCJ.

I've missed talking with Bill every weekend for years. And now, I miss everything about the guy. He will always be my teacher, my inspiration, my doorway and my friend. Thank you Bill for everything you've done for all of us. Comics owes you more than it will ever know.

(I should note that I was 24 when I did this interview and pretty silly about a lot of things. I think, in a lot of ways, my ignorance helps the reader. But, for me it is embarassing to re-read the bold text. Bill's part is still sage-like. Jeff LeVine was nice enough to print this in his visionary Destroy All Comics magazine, and if I remember right he did all the layout and some/all of the transcribing?)


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gwenaelle! Yumi Sakugawa!

We picked up Yumi Sakugawa's new mini, Goodbye Turtle, at Stumptown last weekend. Another fantastic story from this comics artist!

And also new in the store today is our Gwenaelle catalog, a total of six zines. I love her two recipe zines, Little Book of Recipes Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. And the rest of her work is wonderful too - from the fanciful (Island Bestiary) to the playful (Inventez Des Nouvelles Positions Sexuelles).

A Brief Bit About Comic Book Shows

Last year I didn't go to MoCCA, Brooklyn Comics Art, TCAF or SPX for Sparkplug. Other people did those shows for Sparkplug. This was noted by a few people as Sparkplug not being at the shows. This year, I've gone to MoCCA and will be doing TCAF. But the truth is I'm only looking forward to TCAF and maybe Brooklyn. We just did the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland. And after MoCCA and Stumptown in a row, all I can think about is why in God's name Sparkplug is still going to the conventional comic conventions. I'm worried about comics becoming more and more insular, under the pretense of becoming more and more accessible. And I'm worried about the strange exclusion art-comix get from the conventional comics culture.

Shows like Stumptown, MoCCA and the venerable SPX all have this vibe of a shrinking audience for art comics and a growing crowd of young upwardly mobile comics people who are all buying each other's stuff. SPX is off our plate for the foreseeable future (for many reasons) but the chief one is that it isn't about growing comics into the "real world". It is a solid "industry" show. It is strange to think that there is an industry for Independent Comic Books. More and more, a regular person audience seems like the future audience for actually growing comics. By regular audience I mean one outside of the Wednesday comics crowd (which includes me). TCAF has been a show unlike so many others. It takes place in publicly accessible buildings that don't feel like caves. It is free. It is truly a show about art and comics as an art form. Or it has been and, fingers crossed, will continue to be. Tons of just regular people have come to the show. While at Stumptown I got approached by a person from Wordstock (a local bookfair put on by Powell's and Target) and I started thinking about why it is that those sort of shows bug me. It isn't the money, we usually do fine at the more slick shows. It is is a show that only has bookstore owners, librarians and industry people. But I think it is that slickness that really gets me. They all feel YUPPIE to me.

I grew up around Berkeley, CA in the 80s and YUPPIE was the thing you hated more than anything. I realize that is jaded. I want to make a living too. I want people to like what Sparkplug makes. I appreciate any person who picks up our books and looks at them. But I'm heart broken by these shows. I come back feeling beat up, in a bad way. There are tons of parties and lots of fun to be had and sense that everyone is getting 10% closer to their goals at each show. And along with all this a sense of legitimizing comics is happening. The organizer of Stumptown talks about it in this interview. It isn't a bad thing to want to be appreciated by the more accepted larger culture. But in the case of comics I'd argue that this accepted larger culture (of comics) actually chases away regular people, a much wider audience. The move of Stumptown from a easily publicly accessible building with outside light and easy parking to a large prison bunker like building with no outside light, parking that was a 15 minute walk and confusing public transportation access, all for the sake of professionalism, it didn't work in my mind and compared to Stumptowns glory days of 3 years ago, the show was a real let down. Perhaps, worst of all, it is now in the same place as Wordstock. But, I'm sure I'm in the minority.

 Most of the people walking around a show like Wordstock, Stumptown or SPX are "industry people". Some outside audience but mostly inside. People who go to comic shops and people who want to get into comics. A great group of people, but a shrinking audience that places themselves at the center of a shrinking book trade. Great for your career if you are trying to get one in comics, where layoffs, consolidations and shut downs are a daily occurrence. I was really struck by the declining attendance at Stumptown this year. It was in a place that only trade people would go to. Admittedly, MoCCA still gets a good vibe of people outside the "norm". Teenagers read books like Jin&Jam in New York City. MoCCA is in a unique city and has a really arty history. The Brooklyn show seems like it is courting a wider or at least different audience. I know, to a lot of comics people courting the hipster or art audience is annoying, but for me it makes sense.

Comics as they were is a dying or extremely changing medium. Pretty soon no (or substantially less) floppy Marvel or DC books will be on shelves, once they figure out digital distribution. I'm interested in continuing to make and sell good comics after that. I want to support stores and shows that look for a wider audience outside of the comic shop regular. And I'm feeling more and more like I want to go to shows like TCAF, Brooklyn, SFZine Fest, Olympia Comics Fest, Minneapolis Indie Xpo, Anarchist Book Fairs, and small local shows that are courting this larger audience. My thesis is that by trying to be professional and upwardly mobile comics people are ignoring a natural growth that is happening all around them of regular everyday people being interested in comics. And that it feels like that is route I'd much rather pursue, people who don't just buy comics because they have a habit, but ones who are interested in it as an art form. I know, I'm not thinking rationally, but honestly sometimes the best choices I've made have been with my heart and not my head.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Library Talk with Julia Gfrörer, Diana Schutz, Cris Paschild and Dylan Williams

You can now listen to the library talk with Julia Gfrörer, Diana Schutz, Cris Paschild and Dylan Williams on their podcast:
Lots of talking and funny stuff, including a couple great audience members.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Error at the Printing Plant.

We just found out that there was an error in the printing of Gay Genius and so, it won't be out this weekend. The party will be moved to later in the month (the 30th) and the official release of the book will be at the party/TCAF in Toronto. Keep your eyes out. The book itself, it looks Gorgeous.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stumptown and Events this Week in Portland

Sparkplug will be involved in a few local events surrounding the Stumptown Comics Festival this weekend. And we'll be a the show itself too.

Thursday: "Learn about the cultural and economic significance of comics with:
  • PSU Special Collections Librarian and Archivist Cris Paschild
  • Dylan Williams from SparkPlug Comics
  • Diana Schultz from Dark Horse Comics
  • Independent comics creator Julia Gfrörer
Also experience the unique live performance of mini-comics with Julia Gfrörer and guest.
Space at programs is limited. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Thursday, April 14, 4–5:45 p.m.
Central Library, U.S. Bank Room
801 S.W. 10th Ave.

Friday: "Make sure you don’t miss the Stumptown Comics Fest Friday Night Party at my favorite comic shop, Guapo. There will be drinks, snacks, and readings from the lovely Jon Lewis, Karen Sneider, Chris Cilla, Jonas Madden-Connor, Daria Tessler, and the Play Overlord Crew (Theo Ellsworth, Amy Kuttab, and Sean Christensen). They will also be debuting the art show, The Haunted Cartoon Vaults."

Guapo Comics & Coffee
6350 SE Foster Rd
8pm-12:30am Free!

Sunday: April 17, 7:00pm – 7:30pm Release party for Gay Genius. Gay Genius is a comics anthology illuminating the past, present and future of queer history makers. It is a labor of love, a celebration of possibility, an offering to the ancestors. 

Conceived and edited by Annie Murphy, Gay Genius is a showcase of contemporary radical queer visionaries-to-watch-out-for Come out and get down, shake off the Stumptown Comics Fest and celebrate!! Book reading, DJs, dancing, magic, genius, nerding out. 

In Other Words Bookstore 14 Killingsworth St. 

Sparkplug'll be at Stumptown Comics Fest too. Virginia Paine and I will be at  table D-17 Saturday and Sunday, between Tom Neely and Theo Ellsworth.

I'll be on this panel on Saturday: 12:00-12:45pm
IPRC Comics Program Info Meeting — Now entering its third year, the Independent Publishing Resource Center's Certificate Program in Comics is one of the most innovative and affordable programs of its kind. During the course of three semesters, students hone their comics craft in creative workshops led by seasoned professionals from the local community, with a strong focus on DIY publishing techniques, hands-on binding skills and digital media. Join us for an informative Q & A session with current IPRC instructors and alumni.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Portland Comics This Thursday at 4pm

Srsly Big Deal: Living and Breathing Comics in PDX (April 14 at 4:00pm)
From self-published mini-comic zines to traditional comic books, manga and lengthy graphic novels, comics are a seriously big deal in our community, home to big-time publishers, small presses and many independent artists. Learn about the cultural and economic significance of comics with: PSU Special ... (more)Collections Librarian and Archivist Cris Paschild, Dylan Williams from SparkPlug Comics, Diana Schultz from Dark Horse Comics, and independent comics creator Julia Gfrörer. Also experience the unique live performance of mini-comics with Julia Gfrörer and guest. In the U.S. Bank Room. Space at library programs is limited. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Conventions with New Books!

Sparkplug Comic Books is going to both MoCCA Fest and Stumptown Comics Fest and we'll be premiering new books at each show.

The MoCCA Festival is this weekend in Manhattan, NYC Saturday April 9th and Sunday April 10th 11am-6pm. It will be at the Lexington Avenue Armory
68 Lexington Ave (Between 25th &26th Streets). I'll be there.

Then Portland OR's own Stumptown Comics Fest is the next weekend. Saturday and Sunday April 16th and 17th (10-6 Sat and 12-6 Sun). Virginia Paine and I will be there with all kinds of great comics.

MoCCA will mark the premiere of two long awaited Sparkplug books: Austin English's long awaited The Disgusting Room and Elijah Brubaker's Reich #8. Supplies will be limited so get them early.

Stumptown will mark the premiere two amazing anthologies. First, this year's free comic book:
Dan Quayl. Co-published by Gazeta Comics, Teenage Dinosaur, Revival House Press and Sparkplug, this free comic book includes stories by Jesse McManus, Amy Kuttab, Jason Overby and Blaise Larmee. The issue is dedicated to John Callahan.

And then premiering at Stumptown Fest will be one of the biggest projects Sparkplug has ever been involved in: Gay Genius edited by Annie Murphy. And at 7pm Sunday night after Stumptown over at In Other Words (14 Killingsworth St.) Annie will be hosting a party for Gay Genius!

All our new books are available at the website:
Busy couple weeks!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Hello, Gay Genius and Dan Quayl!

We are busy at Sparkplug today! Two more just-printed books for you - the completely amazing anthology Gay Genius (edited by superstar Annie Murphy) and a multi-publisher, Portland-centric collaboration called Dan Quayl (a steal at just $.01 from our website!). Gay Genius includes work by Edie Fake, Elisha Lim, Cleo Reese Sady and a plethora of others. Dan Quayl has work by Amy Kuttab, Jason Overby, Blaise Larmee and Jesse McManus.

Yeah, it's been a good day.

Indie Street Radio on Sausage Hand and Windy Corner #3

Indie Street Radio posted two great reviews, one of Sausage Hand and the other of Windy Corner #3.
Take a look:
Sausage Hand:

The Disgusting Room and Reich #8 out today!

Yes! Today we have two brand new books in the shop! The newest issue of Elijah Brubaker's fascinating Reich series, Reich #8 and Austin English's The Disgusting Room.
Reich #8 tackles the beginning of Wilhelm Reich's new life in America as well as explaining the origin of the mysterious orgone energy.
The Disgusting Room deals with a couple's relationship to their living space; a new, larger-size format showcases Austin's dark, expressive artwork impressively.
Check them out, both are fantastic (of course).