Graphic Novel Review: “Beverly” by Nick Drnaso

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Nick Drnaso’s “Beverly” is an impressive graphic novel about the cruelty and hopelessness of suburban life. The art in Drnaso’s graphic novel is comfortingly simple. Panels are pastel-colored and made up of clean lines and simple shapes. This style contrasts dramatically with the darkness of the content, making it all the more jarring.

The stories in “Beverly” swirl around disappointment, loneliness and miscommunication. In “The Saddest Story Ever Told,” a housewife is excited for the opportunity to give feedback on a new TV show. She encourages her daughter to watch with her—it’s something they can do together—but it turns out the questions aren’t about the show, but rather the advertisements. Read the rest of this entry »

Making CAKE: Chicago Alternative Comics Expo Features Two Illustrious Days and Dozens of Illustrators

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Move over Comic-Con, you won’t be the only expo drawing in the crowd this summer. Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) will have its fourth iteration take place June 6-7 at the Center on Halsted. CAKE celebrates the talented artists behind alternative and underground independent comics during this weekend-long event that features comics for sale, exhibitors, workshops, panel discussions from the pros and more. The icing on the cake is, it’s free and open to the public. Read the rest of this entry »

Clowes Encounter: Talking Comics and Chicago with Cartoonist Daniel Clowes

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By Ray Pride

An early spring afternoon a few days ago along Milwaukee Avenue, south of North, east of Damen, so far removed from the Wicker Park of the 1990s: I pause in front of Myopic Books, still standing, surrounded by storefronts peopled by yupscale saloons, Levis, American Apparel, and remember the days when it was Earwax Café, the front windows there? It had two-top tables in both the plate-glass windows where you could watch the passersby on the street, or turn your head, and watch the other customers, and on certain days and nights, catch sight of a clutch of furiously productive scribblers, which could include Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Archer Prewitt, Gary Leib, among others. They hadn’t “arrived,” but they were there.

I was, too. The food was cheap and heavy, tending to the vegan, and the ashtrays were as often filled with torn-up notes a writer had digested or an artist had rejected as with ashes. My clearest memory of sighting the young artistes was while awaiting a momentous date with a not-yet-girlfriend, sitting at the table in that window, the girl who looked into small tatters and saw her name, and looking away with mild mortification over her shoulder and catching sight of scribblers off to the side, taking in the smell of the food and the not-quite-burnt coffee in the air before looking back at her blushing face. The scraps, the girl, the general atmosphere: plus the furious nurture of a few of the founding foundlings of the still-spreading school of Chicago cartoonists hunched over a free meal.

Now, in the decades since, Clowes’ lovingly rendered Midwestern grotesques have colonized the consciousness of a couple generations of readers far beyond the Chicago comics scene in the waning of the twentieth century. I like talking to Dan. He laughs easily and scores points quietly. We were talking since the 1990s, but I’ve had agreeable structured, journo-subject interviews with Clowes since at least the 2001 release of the movie of “Ghost World.” We tried to remember if and when our respective pasts might have first crossed in those formative Chicago years. It could have been a gallery opening for Ware’s work, he suggests, but we figure it might also have been at some casual locale like the Rainbo Club, and we had probably bristled at each other at some point or another, with a fine mix of shyness, fear and hostility. “In the way we do—we Chicagoans do,” Clowes agreed, laughing. Read the rest of this entry »

She Does It Herself: University of Chicago Exhibit Focuses on Self-Published Women

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zinecompilationBy John Wawrzaszek

Chicago proclaims print is not dead. Annual events like the Chicago Zine Fest (March 8-9) and the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, or “CAKE,” (June 15-16) are evidence of the growing local support for Chicago’s self-publishing community. The latest to join the cause is the University of Chicago Library, as they present “My Life is an Open Book: DIY Autobiography,” an exhibition focusing on woman self-publishers from Chicago.

The university’s library has been actively collecting zines and self-published materials for their catalog. “We were very excited by their diversity and how alive they feel,” says Sarah Wenzel, bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas at the university. “We thought other people would like to see the artistry, writing and variety of the collection.” And that is exactly what you can expect from the exhibit. Local self-publishers and artists are featured on display, ranging from personal zines to mini-comics. Read the rest of this entry »

Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2011

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Power in Chicago has been passed on. No, we’re not talking about that little office in City Hall, but that Oprah, she of the book club that long perched her atop this list, has flown the coop. So now it’s official. The City of Big Shoulders is Poetry’s town. It’s unlikely that Carl Sandburg would have ever imagined such an unlikely outcome when he crafted the city’s calling card, in verse, but it’s not even debatable. Not only can we claim Poetry magazine, the premier publication of its kind anywhere, but its wealthy sibling the Poetry Foundation will open a whole building dedicated to the form later this month. Plus, this is the town that created the Poetry Slam as well as Louder Than a Bomb, the largest teen slam anywhere. Talk about poetic justice. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Revenge of Print, Take 2

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Photo: Ramsey Beyer

Last October, Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago and Baltimore’s Atomic Books set a challenge for 2011: no less than the Revenge of Print, a glorious return to old-fashioned ink and paper in defiance of a world that amuses itself by betting on when print media will finally roll over and die.

With the 2nd Annual Chicago Zine Fest ( March 25-26, payback time has arrived. The two-day celebration of independent publishing features events at Quimby’s, 826CHI and Columbia College, an exhibition of more than 200 zinesters’ works, and workshops on everything from book binding to how to make it as a full-time artist. Highlights include a discussion with popular self-publishers Al Burian and Aaron Cometbus and a DIY Film Festival curated by the Gababout Film Festival’s Eric Ayotte. All events are free and open to the public. Read the rest of this entry »

Darkness Falls? Green Lantern Gallery calls it quits again, but a new venture arises

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The Green Lantern Gallery has had a tumultuous year: after its initial incarnation was shut down due to a city ordinance, Green Lantern director Caroline Picard teamed up with featherproof books’ Zach Dodson to create a multimedia art space. Temporarily housed in Ukrainian Village, the idea was for the revamped Green Lantern Gallery to eventually move into permanent digs designed to foster inter-art collaborations—a gallery, office space for the two presses, The Paper Cave indie bookstore, a performance space and a café/bar, staffed by four year-long artists-in-residence.

For now, though, Picard’s dream will have to wait. With the lease up on their temporary space and unable to find a suitable long-term home, The Green Lantern Gallery is closing up shop. “We did want to have one last hurrah in the space we had, though,” explains Dodson. With that, “The Last Annual Midwest Pop-Up Bookshop” was born. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Crime Lords

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“Don’t self-censor,” Criminal Class Press editor-in-chief Kevin Whiteley warns. Appropriate, considering the fearless Jim Goad will be headlining the Criminal Class Press reading at Quimby’s this Friday. C.C.P. will be supporting its fourth issue, which features such writers as Goad, Stephen Elliott and Chicago’s own Bryan Murphy. Goad, author of “Shit Magnet” and “Red Neck Manifesto,” aligns right in with the motives of C.C.P. as they champion the forgotten and the underclass over the glossy and timid voices they hear in other journals. “It’s a way to echo the voices from our upbringing, and the voices of Oi! punk and the noir scene,” says Whiteley. “For any writers in the audience,” says Whiteley, “we want to inspire them to bleed onto the page.” The reading will be hosted by Whiteley and will feature, aside from Goad, C.C.P staff writer and Windy City Story Slam founder Bill Hillmann. (Peter Cavanaugh)

Reading Preview: Jay Ryan/Quimby’s

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There may be plenty of people in this world who ignore the everyday reality that burdens the rest of us, who see and describe things as they choose, often with the assistance of irresistably cute animals, but most are locked up, not making a living off it. Chicago artist and printmaker Jay Ryan, of The Bird Machine, not only makes a living off making up his own world, he makes the rest of us want to live in it. His rock posters and other commissions rarely make any literal connection to the band or subject matter at hand, but there’s a method to his madness. Well sometimes. Consider this description of one poster for a Stnnng/Dianogah double bill in Minneapolis, from his forthcoming book on the Akashic imprint, “Animals and Objects In and Out of Water: Posters by  Jay Ryan, 2006-2008”: “I was building a new bike while making this print, so I drew a bike. Then I drew a fat man being thrown from the bike, but replaced him with a dolphin, but soon felt the dolphin didn’t fill the space appropriately, and didn’t really make sense, anyway. I replaced the dolphin with an icthyosaurus, and added a toaster to tie the whole composition together.” Read the rest of this entry »

Road Warriors: The Punchbuggy Tour of 2009

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ken dahl dahlhouseThe flier offers readings, sellings and most promising of all, human interaction for fine comic book readers—a novel concept in the age of texting and tweeting. Technology aims to bring us together, and yet it works to isolate us. The 2009 Punchbuggy Tour has hit its Chicago leg. Featuring Liz Baillie (“My Brain Hurts,” “Freewheel”), Ken Dahl (“Welcome To The Dahl House,” “Monster”) and MK Reed (“Cross Country,” Americus”), the tour features original readings and book signings.

Chicago is the ninth stop for the irreverent trio. A modest thirty minutes late, Dahl arms himself with a banjo. Baillie has a ukulele. Something’s not right here. Is this a show? “Somewhere along the way we developed a bit of apathy,” says Dahl. “So we added a soundtrack to the readings.” Indeed, the stringed authors provide a folksy twang to the readings. The music adds an exclamation point to the stories. Taking frequent beer breaks, the speakers seem to have a knack for creating an intimate reading space.

Reed fiddles with the computer, and presents a selection from her graphic novel “Cross Country.” Baillie begins her readings, humbly warning, “Mine’s not as funny as theirs,” though it proves entertaining enough. Dahl reads an excerpt from his latest work, “Monster,” a graphic novel about a man humorously stricken with herpes. At Dahl’s cue, Baillie lets out a monstrous burp. This reading has surround sound. (David Stockdale)