Friday, August 29, 2014

LA Times interviews Elijah Brubaker!

David L. Ulin of the LA Times interviewed Reich creator Elijah Brubaker this week!

"Once I got it into my head to do a biography, Reich was right there, waiting for me. As I read his work more closely, and read everything I could find about him, he became an even better subject. He went from being some cool mad scientist who was unfairly jailed by an oppressive system to a real human being in my mind. Once that happened, it was pretty easy to get the writing started."

Read the full interview here. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sparkplug Highlights: Matter Summer Special by Philip Barrett

Matter Summer Special by Philip Barrett is a casual trip through a few different dimensions. Two goofball stoners, Whitey White and Sean Brown, find themselves running dry in the herb department. After speculating on government conspiracy theories involving marijuana, are pulled into one when they sign up to smoke some experimental weed. 
This particular strain, developed by a government worker who mysteriously disappeared, opens a rift in space-time into an empty dimension. Whitey is the first to dive into the rift chasing a babe, only to get lost. It's up to Sean to find him and bring him back. 
Full of laughs and alternating timelines, this comic is a good romp through some classic stoner humor. It also lacks traditional paneling and flows effortlessly from page to page for a slow, chill drift. Take some time to check it out; maybe you shouldn't be sober??

80 interior pgs, 4 ” x 6 “, black & white with color cover, Sparkplug Books)
available here!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sparkplug Highlight: Windy Corner Magazine #3

Austin English curates another inspiring collection of work in Windy Corners Magazine #3. The table of contents by Molly Colleen O'Connell is especially eye-grabbing. Along with the opening pages by Lilli Carre, this issue begins with a host of small details to get lost in. 
The same could be said for English's Life of Francis book in this issue. Many layers of pattern and shape define English's comics, with large, stylized figures. English hit a good stride in these comics; working with thick black lines adds a moody feel to everything. While his work is usually sentimental and relatable, this issue seemed darker than the rest - perhaps it was the palette, but the subject matter too, seemed to have a gloom over it. 
In contrast to the previous darkness, Sakura Maku's comic contribution is bright and saturated. Maku's comic is intriguing in it's storytelling - there is a narrative going on, but many other layers beneath. Each panel could be happening in the present, or in the mind of one of the characters. It seems disjointed at first, but it all comes together into a tale as rich and with as much mystery at the page.
Jason T. Miles then interprets a letter from Jesse McManus to Windy Corner through a comic. Small figures fill each panel. There is not much variation in panel size or style, but it's compelling. A poem collaboration, really. Color and text repeat the poetic vibes~
Next, English reflects on the work of Garth Williams, an illustrator of many popular children's books. While familiar with Williams' work, I've never reflected on its kindness or entertained any enchantment with it. It's good to be reminded of artists that may have fallen by the wayside in childhood memories. The Stuart Little cover by Williams stands out in its motion and usage of line. 
Following that is Frank Santoro's appraisal of Garage Band by Italian cartoonist Gipi. The pages that Santoro uses as examples are stunning. I can hardly imagine what the rest of the book looks like because each combination of color and illusion of light is so perfect yet surprising. The story is captivating even when summarized - it's definitely a must read!
Finally, there is an interview with Carol Tyler by Vanessa Davis. Tyler is frank and welcoming in her conversational style, just as her comics are frank and welcoming into her life. It was a pleasure to read about her work and that she lives her life so honestly, not really concerned with offending those that she writes about, but making amends when necessary. 
This is the last issue of Windy Corners that Sparkplug has, and it was a good series of three magazines to read! There are so many artists to learn about in each issue.

(80 interior pgs, 6.5″ x 9″, color cover and interior, Sparkplug Books)
available here!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Late Summer Check In

Hi all!  Hope you are having a good summer!
If you have tried to order books from our website during the last couple months, you may have encountered a glitchy shopping cart or an internal server error notification.  We have been having a lot of trouble getting the site to function and it's been a slow process getting it back to working order again.  Our old hosting platform did not support our Wordpress-based site, and I've spent a lot of time on hold this summer, trying to get things cancelled and moved over to our new hosting.  The fact that the domain name is still in Dylan's name has been causing some problems too; I'm waiting to hear from the original host if they will let me take over ownership of the name. 
Online sales are a good amount of our income and having the site out of commission for a lot of the summer has really impacted Sparkplug's budget.  The good news is we got the site moved to Laughing Squid hosting, who are great, and redid our theme so the site should be working well now.  We've still got a few tweaks to make, so please feel free to email me if you encounter any issues (virginia (at) sparkplugcomicbooks (dot) com).  If you've been waiting to order books from us, now would be a good time to do it - we could really use your support.  Thanks for your patience with this issue.
And yes - that is the cover for the final Reich book up there!  We've been gathering together the necessary components for our Kickstarter campaign for that book and for William Cardini's Vortex collection.  We'll make a big announcement in a couple weeks when the campaign goes live, so keep an eye out.  We're really excited about these two books and you should be too!


PS.  A HUGE thank you to our go-to guy for website issues, Milo George.  He has been a total champ and so responsive and helpful during this whole mess.  Hooray for Milo!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sparkplug Highlight: Windy Corner Magazine #2

I must say that I'm incredibly impressed and endeared by this issue of Windy Corner Magazine. I read it in two sittings because I spent so much time slowly reading and paying attention. Often it's hard for me to take breaks from a book or comic, but there was a lot that I wanted to think about inbetween sections of the magazine. 

As with issue one, this issue starts out with a beautiful cover (drawings Austin English did based on Lois Lenski's work), as well as a thoughtful opening page featuring a comic by Mollie Goldstrom. While I pointed out in my highlight of issue one that I appreciated English featuring female artists, that feeling is much stronger in this issue. Goldstrom's feminist comic pulled me into the book immediately. 

The reader is introduced to so many artists in this book, most of them women. There is also an excellent interview of John Hankiewicz by Onsmith and a comic by Sparkplug's own Dylan Williams. 

I enjoyed Life of Francis by English. As an everyday life comic, it addresses issues of class and social awkwardness and what it's like to be an outcast due to these things. Francis struggles but remains firm in her love of her cozy home and family. Following three comics by English that are similar in content to those in the first issue, there is a comic by Fiona Logusch about human relationships. More than the subject matter, Logusch's layout stands out; the comic is fairly traditional in form, but the pages are photos of the actual paper on a desk. Along with the grunge of the actual page, this effect makes her comic flow not only within itself, but also with the rest of the book. 

Dylan's comic is soft in chalk or oil pastels. This reflection on his communication with Alex Toth over the years seems fuzzy and vague, like the lines of pastels and memories. I'm impressed that Dylan had such control over pastels (they seem horrid to work with...) and picked dreamy palettes for each panel. There is a lot of breathing room between panels, which is a good break from comics that are cluttered and rush you through. I think the comic also talks about communication this way; it's all snail mail - slow conversations with Alex Toth. 

Next up is English's article on artist and writer Lois Lenski. It is wonderful to be introduced to her work - the simple forms and confident lines that grace her books inspire me. Reflecting on simplicity and stylization is something that I think every artist does at one point; Lois Lenski had it down pat. Also in this section English takes note of artists like Wanda Gág, known for her book Millions of Cats. English takes time to remind the reader that the special thing about Lois Lenski is that her books were for children and had good values in them, but never attempted to be a moral lesson. Lenski communicated her ideas through clean storytelling without being manipulative. 

Last is the interview of John Hankiewicz. I was surprisingly engrossed in this conversation. Obviously Onsmith and Hankiewicz are friends and conversations between peers and friends are often the most interesting type. John has a lot to say about comics, the meta aspect of comics (when you draw a speech bubble of someone out of the panel talking; how you have no clue who it could be) and his process. I found this interview educational without any attempt to be so. There is a lot of information to be churned over here...

(72 interior pgs, 6.5″ x 9.5″, color cover with black and white interiors, Sparkplug Books)
available here!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sparkplug Highlight: Windy Corner Magazine #1

Windy Corners is a series edited by Austin English. This issue features two ongoing comics by English, "Life of Francis" and "My Earliest Memory", as well as an interview with Portland cartoonist Andrice Arp. There are several beautiful paintings by Paula Salemme, an essay by Steve Lafler, and a comic by Richard Hahn. 
What is especially interesting about Windy Corners #1 is that English sticks to his aesthetic without being exclusionary. All the work is consistent and high quality; I'm especially grateful for the feature of two awesome female artists. The interview with Andrice Arp is great because English, as an artist, knows what questions to ask. Learning about an artist's influences, process, and personality is what I care about in an interview; Andrice delivers intricate, detailed answers.
Paula Salemme's paintings add a nice pause between text and image sections. Her densely-packed works are full of rich colors and textures that I don't usually see paired together. They work well side-by-side with comics by English, who also uses a variety of texture, experimenting with flatness and form. 
English leaves all edits (or perhaps they're intentional to add grit) on top of his comics, allowing for a messier look than traditional comics. Each page is immersive and full of color & text. Both of his comics seem autobiographical, despite one being about a young girl named Francis. Perhaps English is reflecting on childlike times and behavior by giving his work a looser look - either way, it works well and each page flows into the next despite the colors and sometimes appearance of characters constantly changing. 
Hahn's comic is also loose, moody, with black lines and an array of ever-changing shapes. The ten pages reflect on Saul Steinberg as an artist and do him justice with soft colors and overlapping lines. 
Overall, Windy Corners is a wonderful compilation of original works. Aside from the contents, the book is printed in deep colors and formatted - dare I say - adorably. The end pages to the full bleed is considered, and it's the little things that count!

(80 interior pgs, 6 1/2 ” x 9 1/2″, Full Color, Sparkplug Books) 
available here!