When Coffin Bound originally started in August, 2019, I took a chance on it because of its striking cover and strange, grimey artwork. I loved it. I sold a friend on the book by showing her a page from the comic depicting a stripper slicing off and removing her skin while performing at a club. My friend knew she had to read it.
“The book definitely found its audience, which is really nice. It definitely wasn’t a sure thing when we started,” writer Dan Watters said. “It wasn’t like, ‘oh, this is definitely something people are looking for.’ You know, ‘no one’s done a bleak, grindhouse, nihilist book with baroque dialogue and theatrical flourishes and all this kind of stuff.’ There wasn’t a specific gap in the market.”
This disturbing, stunningly drawn and engrossingly strange comic book, published by Image Comics and drawn by an artist who goes by Dani, just ended its second arc this month.
With Ice Cream Man, writer W. Maxwell Prince and artist Martín Morazzo have crafted a psychologically and aesthetically terrifying horror comic. Prince draws inspiration from his personal life rather than the horror genre.
“I think Ice Cream Man is a way for me to talk about things that… as a husband, as a son, as a friend and just as a citizen of the world… make me worry and afraid,” Prince said. “Where the horror genre is concerned… I don’t know anything about it. I don’t read horror. I don’t watch horror movies. I’ve never read Junji Ito or any of that stuff.”
Ice Cream Man is one of my all-time favorite comic books, a currently ongoing series from Image Comics that takes the form of single-issue, self-contained horror stories that constantly play with the comics medium.
In Nova Graphica, a comics anthology about the Canadian province Nova Scotia that released this week, Laura Ķeniņš both edited the anthology and contributed a comic for it.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve viewed myself as either thing first or over the other,” Ķeniņš said. “I would say with this book that’s coming out, I’d view myself first and foremost as editor on this project.”
Ķeniņš, based in Toronto, Canada, has led a career that has synergized cartooning, comics editorial work and journalism, and in her latest project, Nova Graphica, all of those passions have coalesced.
Jared Cullum became fascinated by comic books because of comics like Blankets, but he also got really into watercolor painting.
“I got totally absorbed in art history and painting, and then it just sort of became an obsession,” Cullum said.
As he delved more and more into studying and practicing watercolor painting, he pursued how he could “explore that stuff and really get lost in it and discover something,” he said, “or find something I can bring back to comics that might be a bit different.”
Derf Backderf attended art school as a young man and dropped out before long. He decided instead to do journalism school, where he enjoyed writing, taking photos and making cartoons for the school paper. After college, he had some stints doing political cartoons and comic strips for newspapers, and eventually, he yearned for more space to tell sequential stories.
“My comic strips were not character-driven,” Backderf said. “It was all kind of stream-of-consciousness or gag stuff or weird, whatever popped into my head. Writing long-form books, you build them all around characters. I always thought that would be a fun way to write, and damned if it isn’t.”
With his latest graphic novel released this month, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, Backderf has combined copious reporting with visual storytelling to recount the Ohio National Guard’s slaughter of unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War.
In his 20s, John Pham used to have a Fantagraphics promotional poster on his wall featuring artwork from classic cartoonists like Robert Crumb. He’d stare at it every day.
When Pham originally started creating his one-man anthology comic series Epoxy in 1999, he didn’t have the confidence to submit it to publishers, but worked on it anyway, helped a great deal by a grant he received from the Xeric Foundation. He dreamed of Fantagraphics publishing his work.
Earlier this year, Fantagraphics published an anthology of his current flagship comic strip J&K, one of the ongoing comics featured in Epoxy.
“It was definitely a full-circle moment for me,” Pham said.
Though he works a full-time animation gig while raising two young children with his wife in Los Angeles, Pham still finds time to continue his comics work through Epoxy.
Shawn Pryor originally wrote a short comic alongside artist George Kambadais that was supposed to be published as a back-up in another comic, but that comic series was discontinued before his story would have run.
Left without a home for the comic, about domestic violence from a child’s perspective, he got an idea: what if he turned each panel into a whole page and instead released it as a children’s picture book?
“It was mind-blowing,” Pryor said. “The reason why was because a lot of the story is just black background. So you’re focused on the character or place or presence. Your eyes are always focused on the subject at hand, and you’re not focused on any kind of background stuff. It brings the characters and the feelings and the emotions closer to you.”
Noah Van Sciver has seen a lot of progression in his artwork over time, just as many artists do.
“You’re going to start with one specific art style that you’re trying to achieve but you’re not really there, and over the years it just kind of refines itself,” he said. “And then other influences come in and comingle and eventually, you have your own style. I started off as a complete Robert Crumb wannabee, and then over time, other influences come in. You see European artwork that’s looser, things like that.”
Van Sciver has become a notable creator in the alternative comics scene – at the moment, he’s fresh off doing the art for Grateful Dead Origins, three years deep in a book about Mormonism-founder Joseph Smith and has a few comic collections releasing soon.
Simon Hanselmann’s beloved Megg, Mogg and Owl comic series usually comes in the form of zines and graphic novels, but once the pandemic hit, he figured he’d post new chapters almost once a day for free on his Instagram. Five months later, he’s still posting new chapters.
“It was supposed to just be for like 30 days,” Hanselmann said. “‘Oh, COVID will clear up in a month, everything will go back to normal.’ And, yeah, nothing did, and [the comic] just kept on going. And I enjoy it. I enjoy this model of creating. Just throwing it out for free.”
This new serialized storyline, dubbed “Crisis Zone,” follows Megg, Mogg and Owl’s crude, gross, hysterical and miserable misadventures navigating current events, and Hanselmann doesn’t plan on stopping until the United States election.
Gabrielle Bell makes comics mainly about her life, and she doesn’t pick the most flattering or positive anecdotes.
“Sometimes I’ve done some comics where I’m like, ‘this is going to totally make everyone appalled at me and just disgusted,’” Bell said. “And then it turned out people loved it and felt seen and recognized, and it brought people and myself together, and that’s encouraged me to explore it even more.”
Bell has found success in illustrating comics about embarrassing or unpleasant moments of her life, combining honesty with anthropomorphic animals and other silly bits of fantasy to keep things light. Continue reading →