Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Meet a Visiting Comic Book Writer: A Chat with Nejc Juren of Slovenia

by Mike Rhode

Early next month, DC will have the rare treat of two Slovenian cartoonists visiting to sign their Animal Noir graphic novel and open an exhibit of comic art at the Embassy of Slovenia. Last week, we interviewed Izar Lunaček.Today, we chat with Nejc Juren, the co-author of Animal Noir.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write scripts. I'm so bad at drawing that I never dared to hope I could do any work in comics. However, I've always loved comics, and since I consider myself more of a storyteller then a writer, I jumped at the chance when Izar suggested we tell some stories together in comic book form. I truly believe comics are one of the best storytelling mediums. The possibilities here are endless.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I try to adapt to the process of the illustrator. If he needs a panel by panel script, I try to write it that way, but I prefer the process to be more loose. I tell the illustrator the broad story and then I let his visual ideas guide and shape the script. With Izar, the process was just incredible. When we did Animal Noir we spent a couple of months just world-building. We really went into the foundation of the world those animals created. Then we created the long arc of the story (which has yet to be told and I guarantee is really epic) and only then all the small arcs, the first of which came out last year from IDW.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1982. Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia and a socialist country. Yugoslavia dissolved when I was 8 years old and I grew up watching a lot of American television.

Where do you live now?

I live in Ljubljana, our nation's capital.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I always got the worst marks in drawing. But I also always got the worst mark in music and now I make ends meet by writing comic scripts and running a semi-popular swing band. As for formal education, I finished law school.

Who are your influences?

René Goscinny, Allan Moore, Joan Sfar, Christophe Blain.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I don't think I'd change anything. I kinda take it like this: it takes around 20 years to become a good storyteller. So that's a really long journey. And the more you meander, the more you get lost and side-tracked, the more walls you hit, all that should - by this theory - just add to your journey. That's why I'm trying to cherish all the wrong turns I take.

What work are you best-known for?

In comics, it's Animal Noir. However, in Slovenia I'm more known as a musician. This is my band, Počeni Škafi, if you want to check us out. I write all the lyrics and most of the music. In English, it means The Cracking Buckets. Our original singer's surname was Škafar, which means the bucket maker.We have an album on Spotify and all the other streaming sites, but a good sample is here:

What work are you most proud of?

You'd make me choose among my children? Okay, check this video out. It's the first thing Izar and I did together. Dive is a short comic that was done as a music video for Fed Horses, a band I also write lyrics for. I'm really happy the way it turned out but I don't think the Youtube algorithm likes it too much.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Izar and I are working on a comic called Thursday Girl that I think will be great. We're hoping to find a publisher soon so we can get our claws into it. I'm also preparing a collection of short stories that's going to get released next year.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I stop and let my brain solve it on it's own. I have a constant writer's block and usually resolves it self around deadlines. Or I find that a long walk or a long shower really helps.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Who knows? But stories will always be important. And if by some chance the world gets overrun by amazing storytellers and will have no use for me, I'll just go back into law.

What conventions do you attend?

I usually go to the Angouleme festival in France. It's super nice.

Have you visited DC before?

Yes. I visited in 98. I was an international student at the Governor's school of South Carolina and we make a field trip.

If so, favorite thing? Least favorite? If not, what do you want to do?

I remember putting my finger into Einstein's nose.

If you've visited, what monument or museum do you like?

I guess the answer is again Einstein. I'm not into the big phallic monuments. I did enjoy the Air & Space Museum.

What can you tell us about your book that you're signing at Big Planet Comics?

One of Goodreads reviewers called it: so intensely overthought that it's hard to tell if it's good or just totally insane. I guess that's my work.

Did Animal Noir when we appear in the United States, or did it appear in your country first? How did you guys bring it to the attention of IDW? Did you do the English script yourselves?

Animal Noir came out in the US first. Some publishing houses in Slovenia liked it, but none wanted to risk the investment. The Slovenian comics market is very small. Our original plan was to find a publisher in France and the first few pages were drawn in a little larger format. When IDW showed interest, we adapted it to the floppy format and we re-wrote the script to fit it into 20-page episodes.

Izar met Ted Adams at the comics festival in Barcelona, pitched him the story and showed him a few pages. Ted liked it so much, he also took on the editing duties. It was surreal for us.

Yeah, we wrote Animal Noir in English. When in came out in Slovenia 6 months later, we needed to translate it into our mother tongue. Moreover, when we did the world-building we named everything in English with some reckless abandon, so we put ourselves in some tight spots when we needed to translate those names into Slovenian.

Do you have a website or blog?

No. But you can follow me on Instagram.

As Izar Lunaček noted on our blog last week:

The first days of November will see a double hit of Slovenian comics descend on Washington DC. On Thursday November 1st at 7PM, Nejc Juren and Izar Lunaček will swing by Big Planet Comics on U St., NW to talk about and sign their book Animal Noir, a comic thriller about a giraffe detective in a world of lion politicians and hippo mobsters that came out with IDW last year, and on the 2nd the same guys will open an exhibition on the vivid history of their own country's comics scene at the Slovenian embassy on California Street. Admission to both events is free and food and drinks might be served. Come on, come all, it'll be wonderfully fun! 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Chat with Dan Rosandich, Cartoonist for Hire

by Mike Rhode

I got a tip that cartoons were included in a US Capitol Visitors Center exhibit about the 'Separation Of Powers.'  I was able to track down cartoonist Dan Rosandich, who confirmed that the cartoons were his work, but that he wasn't contractually allowed to talk about doing them. Instead, he answered our usual questions for a visiting cartoonist.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I do cartoons that are gag panels and I keep myself "on call" for assignments as I get requests for special custom cartoons through my online web catalog and portfolio pages. I'm currently illustrating a logo for a micro-brewery out east and am almost finished.

I also recently finished a magazine cover for a small trade journal based in Illinois (their October issue in fact)

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I am old school, based on drawing these illustrations for 40+ years now. I have tried many drawing nibs, dip pens, markers and micro-tip felt pens and am comfortable using the Rapidograph technical pen. Normally I pencil in a gag cartoon, ink it in using the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph and let that dry and later I clean it with a soft eraser. I then scan the artwork into Photoshop. I still use Photoshop version 6.0....very antiquated, but it works for me and I can format high resolution cartoon files and store each image into an appropriately named folder on my hard drive for easy access and retrieval.

I used to use Higgins Waterproof India Ink for coloring work but it's an obsolete practice I think.... no editor wants to have to get an originally illustrated watercolor, than have to either scan it or make a transparency from it, when all they really need to do is take any properly-formatted files supplied from the cartoonist and import it into their digital publishing software they lay their publication out with.

Technology has really revolutionized the cartooning business from that standpoint. But it's creating original paper images that I like... I could do it all on a Cintiq I guess, but what would I have to hold in my (ink-stained) hands afterwards?

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1957 north of Detroit, Michigan.

Where do you live now?

I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (aka Yooperland!)

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I never went to any fancy art school or had a formal college course in art... I immediately began sending out cartoons to magazines while in my last year of high school and sold one to a trade magazine based in NYC and was "hooked". I still can't describe the feeling you get when you aspire to something you want, and get an acceptance. You immediately get that "I have arrived" overwhelming feeling. And when it happens to a kid, that makes the impact all that much greater and memorable.

It really motivates you.

Who are your influences?

I discovered underground comics as a kid and liked their freedom of expression from the get-go. Robert Crumb's work blew my mind....his attention to detail was / is so great....the cross-hatching and use of black to make characters "pop" is so unique.

The usual comic strip influences were of course Schulz who had already published many Peanuts anthologies which were huge coffee table size books and I'd go to the library to check them out and leaf through them, absorbing all the in depth line art and the way he'd box in each panel, ever so carefully while smelling the light mildewy odor mixed in with the inks that eminated off each page....I thought I was in nirvana.

I'd also graze all the back copies of The New Yorker at my high school library and was enthralled with a guy names Marvin Townsend whose gag panels appeared in all the Weekly Readers I'd go through as a kid.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Get a good formal art training or training in architectural design. It would be an asset in making future artwork look much better and in today's digital realm, that training might assist in getting work in other areas of illustration.

Overall, I think I got in the freelance business when there was less competition and cartoonists seemed more willing to share and help one another. Nowadays it's very competitive....especially with everyone having their own online portfolios they can show to get work.

What work are you best-known for?

Probably 'Pete & Jake' which is a cartoon panel I do for World Fencing Data Center based in Austin, Texas. I have illustrated the cartoon about two bumbling fence installation workers who work for the fictitious Boss Fence Company and their cantankerous 'boss' who also appears regularly in the cartoons in each monthly issue of World Fence News.

 I started in 1995 and just last week finished the latest package of 40 new panels and am just now creating some special color Christmas cartoons for the upcoming holiday season.

They sometimes run a few cartoons in an issue and the following month dedicate a full page to all kinds of panels and a "Best Of" series of cartoons that have appeared in previous issues.

Their editor and publisher are big aficionados of the single panel gag concept and I've also done oodles of strips and other various multi-panels for them. They are a great regular client of mine.

Advertisers seeing my work have also reached out and assigned work used for promoting their own fence or safety-related products.

What work are you most proud of?

Overall, I have to say my entire "body" of work. I have well over 5,000 cartoons I make available throughout my online catalog and my site also acts as a promotional tool in order to get assignments for book illustration work and other custom created cartoons I offer.

But aside from what is online, I have an extensive portfolio of previously published book  illustrations, direct-mail projects of illustrated, images for marketers, consultants and facilitators have used numerous cartoons of mine, including custom cartoons for books and presentations, social media, web sites, email "blasts" and more.

I've illustrated everything from book covers and magazine covers to package design and t-shirt illustrations.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I would love to publish my own hard-copy catalog. I once had Don Martin of Mad magazine send me his little catalog offering his originals for sale. It was insane, but it was an impetus for a new idea I always had in the back of my mind.

Only my "catalog" would offer cartoons that advertising agencies could buy for whatever usage they request licensing those specific cartoons for. That hard copy booklet could also be used as a portfolio I could sell if I ever visited a city and went into ad agencies on my own time.

I am still considering my options in regards to it because it takes planning, such as how to acquire names and addresses of the right people to get the catalogs to, what the expense would be (not just for printing) but for getting all the right contact names and then shipping them out.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I spread things out. I have a subscription to SalesFlower which is an online database that allows you to choose different Standard Industrial Classification codes (SIC codes) of businesses. I pick out phone numbers of art directors or creative directors and make cold calls.

If not that, I switch gears and re-draw old cartoons that never sold or do work I never had time to focus on, such as giftware designs for POD sites (publishing on demand) like Cafe Press or Zazzle (I have accounts with both, but favor Zazzle over CafePress).

If not that, as you well know, paperwork is overwhelming...just cleaning up paperwork can be a relief....focusing on that can have a big impact on changing your outlook to a more positive one.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

The future of cartoons will definitely trend towards digital and the internet. The newspapers have dwindled to the point where comic strips are less and less important based on many sites like GoComics have taken up promoting those cartoonists online. GoComics isn't interested in my work I don't think, but I know of know fellow artists who report making money through that platform. That's not to say that they aren't trying, but I feel it's more in each respective cartoonist's court, to promote themselves. Build their own sites and display their work to the world on their
own...don't be part of a collection where you get lost in the shuffle. I'm not sure that's good. Your work will have it's own uniqueness if it stands alone and you present it in such a way that it's "marketed" to the right potential clients.

What conventions do you attend?

I attend no conventions as I have nothing to sell, aside from original gag panels, but I don't consider my original art as a "collectible" in any way. It's likely they'd say "Who's Rosandich?"

Have you visited DC before?

I haven't, but it's definitely on my list!

If not, what do you want to do?

I'd like to get to the U.S. Capitol . . .don't ask me why! And so many other famous monuments I would see I have an old school classmate who lives there and he was a Congressional guard in the military who said he can show me around the beltway and surround areas. The Smithsonian would be considered a "bucket list" visit!

Do you have a website or blog?

My main web site home page is at and my blog I write, focuses solely on cartoons, comic strips, the cartooning business, cartoonists and I occasionally reflect on things related to cartooning such as gag writing and promoting and marketing your cartoons on a freelance basis. My Toonblog can be found at

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Meet a Visiting Cartoonist: A Chat with Izar Lunaček of Slovenia

by Mike Rhode

Early next month, DC will have the rare treat of two Slovenian cartoonists visiting to sign their graphic novel and open an exhibit of comic art at the Embassy of Slovenia (which was part of Yugoslavia when I was young). As Izar Lunaček noted on our blog last week:

The first days of November will see a double hit of Slovenian comics descend on Washington DC. On Thursday November 1st at 7PM, Nejc Juren and Izar Lunaček will swing by Big Planet Comics on U St., NW to talk about and sign their book Animal Noir, a comic thriller about a giraffe detective in a world of lion politicians and hippo mobsters that came out with IDW last year, and on the 2nd the same guys will open an exhibition on the vivid history of their own country's comics scene at the Slovenian embassy on California Street. Admission to both events is free and food and drinks might be served. Come on, come all, it'll be wonderfully fun!

He was also willing to answer a slight modification of our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Funny and thoughtful are probably my two mainstays. I love comedy and I'm a trained philosopher, so that's probably the stem of that. Within those margins, however, I've done everything from anthropomorphic newspaper strips to socially critical detective novels to autobio and science stuff.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I love drawing by hand, still, the scratches of the crowquill pen and the smooth waves of the brush intoxicate me. That said, I have started coloring mostly on the computer because it simply reproduces so much better. Plus, I like the stark look of computer graphics used sparingly.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

At the very end of the seventies in Yugoslavia. I grew up reading great local and Italian comics (Marvel was a bit off-limits because ... Communism) that you can learn more about at the expo opening. When I was 12, however, my birthplace broke up into a buch of smaller states, accompanied by a bloody war. Lucky for us, Slovenia only got off with a 10-day skirmish and a couple dozen dead. It has, however, lost the entire huge, cosmopolitan Yugoslav comic market and that's something we're all still recovering from.

Where do you live now?

In Ljubljana, Slovenia's tiny capital. It's a beautiful little town with just over a quarter million folks, but all the perks of a capital, from well stocked bookshops to possible investors to great party venues. It has a river winding through downtown where you can sit and drink and sketch and chat, I love living there. The only downside is the minuscule market that can't really support comic creators - not even commercially-bent ones - hence my regular job-seeking trips to France and the US.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I studied classical painting. Mainly because all of my favorite Slovenian cartoonists (TBC, Miki Muster, Magna Purga - you'll  learn about them at the exhibit 😊) attended the same Ljubljana academy of fine arts. It's not really an "Art School;" it's more of the army crossed with apprenticeship; you had to be there the whole day, no excuses, from morning til night, and somebody was constantly shouting at you while the whole class stood still and didn't dare object too much. It's very classical, with obligatory attendance to daily session of drawing naked old bums posing for cheap and learning how to mix your own paint and stretch canvases and listening to lectures on art history. But it was great; together with my PhD in philosophy, it's given me a wonderful grab-bag of crafts and ideas to do comics with.

Who are your influences?

Apart from the local guys mentioned above, I read a lot of newspaper comics as a kid - Calvin and Hobbes, Pogo, Krazy Kat - and later moved on to more mature stuff by Alan Moore, but also Moebius and the madmen gathered around the Parisian mag Charlie Hebdo. I'm currently freshly charmed by French new wave comics with guys like Joann Sfar and Christophe Blain, but have also been discovering American gems I'd overlooked before - like Mignola. I guess an unlikely combo of whimsically loose and fatefully blocky art is what drives me at the moment.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Maybe I'd have gone to New York for a few years in my twenties which I always dreamed of, but was stopped by a bad relationship at home. It'd be fun to have gotten some isolated, unanchored, bridge-burned work done at that time. Other than that, everything's been pretty great.
What work are you best-known for?

In Slovenia a whole generation grew up on my newspaper comics in the early 2000s and I still get patted on the back for that at parties. Internationally, I made a tiny splash with an intricate webcomic called Paradise Misplaced that was later published in book form both in Spain and the UK. And in the States, my one claim to fame is IDW's recent Animal Noir series I co-wrote with Nejc Juren, a fantastic Slovenian writer and good friend. We're trying to get more stuff published over here, but meanwhile, we always have our home public as a grateful if not always paying recipient.

How does one pronounce "Nejc?"

Nejc is pronounced Neyts (j is like y and c is like ts in Slovenian). It's short for Jernej so Jerry basically.

What was your comic strip about?

The newspaper comic was about two tiny animals, the inquisitive, species-unidentified Professor and his unwitting helper Hedge the hedgehog. They'd live at the edge of a human city, discover human artifacts and devise ingenious theories about them. Or put on a theater show for the other animals or talk about politics etc, etc: in short, philosophical mayhem infused with a whole lot of silliness.

What work are you most proud of?

I currently just love working on my biweekly blog for a Slovenian web-paper. I think I've broken new ground there like I haven't felt in a long time. And the five people who actually read comics in Slovenia all love it.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I'd love to do some more ambitious stuff for France or the States, just to kick me into gear for a bit and get me to test my boundaries. Working on Animal Noir for IDW was really rewarding, so another project of that scope would be wonderful. My co-writer and I on that are currently working on a slice of life romantic dramedy set among the Ljubljana student population; that's fun and might get greenlit by a British publisher soon. While waiting, however, I just spew out pitches on everything from Greek monsters to killer Santas and cities populated entirely by birds and I'll jump into any one of them with gusto the moment I get a bite.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I walk around town, I chat to people and I sketch and doodle and play. Chasing the zing but not so hard to chase it away. But that's when I'm between projects. If I have a deadline, I usually just plow through it, goggles on, engine revving, and it usually works, more or less.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

My hope is for comics to get increasingly accepted by the general populace. I love the French way where everybody reads comics resulting in a wide range of genres from art to trash to non-fiction to mellow pop. That's my hope but I think it stands a chance too; telling stories in graphic, easily graspable form is very much a trend now and I'd be willing to bet it's a long-term one.

What conventions do you attend?

I go to either Angouleme or St Malo, the two biggest French comic festivals, every year. Those are great for just seeing all these personal, passionate stories enabling their authors to survive on the sales. I went to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time last year to sign Animal Noir and it was a soul-sucking experience to see an entire art form get trampled by its own geeky spinoffs. This year, I'm planning to stay in the US long enough to attend the Comics Art Brooklyn festival and I'm guessing I'll leave with a much better aftertaste.

Have you visited DC before?

Once, a few years ago. It's where a girl lives who I've been pen-pals with since we were 13. I visited her and played with her kids and baked burgers with her hubby on the back lawn. I hope they'll have us over this year too.

 If you've visited, what monument or museum do you like?

I visited some strange sights during my first visit. I asked my hosts to take me to Baltimore and to the Chesapeake River and Cooke's Point in Maryland, because I'd been translating John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor novel into Slovenian and really wanted to visit the intricately described geography of the book I'd been living in for a year.

Can you tell us about your book talk at Big Planet Comics on U St?

On November 1st at 7PM me and Nejc will be signing Animal Noir, a hardboiled thriller starring a giraffe detective loose in a city of lion politicians and hippo mobsters. We'll be talking about making the series too, writing the stories and creating the complex world enabling a range of African animals to live in relative harmony. The book came out last year with IDW and the company's legendary founder, Ted Adams, to whom I'd pitched the idea at a Barcelona comic festival, served as the series' dedicated editor for its brief four issue run. The book wasn't a huge hit, though, so it wasn't renewed for a second series, but we're shopping around for someone to get it running again 'cause we just love it. It got some really nice reviews too so I guess we're not the only ones.

Who does what on Animal Noir and how do you divide up the work?

The basic idea (giraffe detective in a world of mafia hippo, exploited zebras and some ruling cats) was mine and Nejc infused it with lovely details on how the social system was sustained -- from periodic zebra riots, to hunt porn, and struggles between political fractions. We were world-building over coffees for months before getting to the stories, which were also a joint venture. Nejc took care of the narrative and emotional structure and I provided the surface texture, but we constantly edited each other's contribution. I then broke the story down by pages and Nejc would do dialogues on the go for the spread I'd be working on that day. Once I did the linework and colors, we'd go over it again several times to trim the tone and rhythm here and there. It was a wonderfully intertwined, fun enterprise where we climbed on each other like rungs, ending up higher than either one of us could reach on their own.

Can you tell us about your history of Slovenian comics presentation?

The day after presenting our book - on November 2nd at 7PM - I'll be opening an exhibition of the best of Slovenian comics at our country's embassy on California street 1210, just a stone's throw from Big Planet Comics on U St, NW. Over 30 oversize prints of pages from our local masters of the medium will be on display and I'll bring a bunch of original books too. Translations will be provided and I'll open the expo with a brief talk on the history of Slovenian comics to give some context. Ours is a small country but the comics medium has produced a handful of truly class A creators that are really worth getting acquainted with, I promise. Again, there might be food and wine, so ...

Do you have a website or blog?

I have this blog but it's in Slovenian. The best way to check out and follow my work right now, I think, is through Instagram, where I regularly post works in progress and finished stuff. My username is giraffedetective. Go figure.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Paul Hostetler

by Mike Rhode

DC Zinefest 2018 recently had a successful day out at Art Enables on Rhode Island Ave. I met at least six cartoonists who were new to me, and said hi to at least three I already know. (My photos are here). Paul Hostetler, illustrator and cartoonist, answered our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Every year, for the past 5 years, I self-published a black and white mini-comic, sold pretty much exclusively at shows.  Occasionally, I'll have comics published in an alt-monthly or something, but my main wheelhouse is illustration.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Dark Ambrosia
I have a love affair with India ink, and there's probably not a method I haven't used with it, from sponges and quill pens to Microns and atomizers.  I always come back to the sable brush, though. The less time I have to spend on a computer, the better.  To me, computer coloring and shading is the dullest thing in the world.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in the 80s, but I only barely remember the first George Bush getting elected.  There was a giant turkey in his victory speech, so I might have that confused with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I moved to DC because my last job had me in a small town in Virginia, and I was going stir crazy with all the bluegrass music.  Right now my metro stop is Van Ness, and why the neighborhood is called "Forest Hills" instead of that is one of the things that I try to not have to think about.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I was educated at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in illustration.  They have a sequential art department, but I figured the Illustration Department would give me a leg up when it came to working with a variety of media.  And it did!  Though I have to say, 80% of what I know about the comics/illustration business, I've had to learn on the job.

Who are your influences?

For writing, I feel you can't top Alan Moore. Jodorowsky was one of the writers who taught me that comics don't necessarily have to make a lot of sense.  And beyond comics, Terry Pratchett, John Kennedy Toole, P. G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Michael Moorcock, Dan Harmon, and Clive Barker.  Far too many white guys, now that I think about it.
Our Dear Leader

For art, most of my biggest influences are people who have never done comics, like British illustrators Gerald Scarfe, Ralph Steadman, Ronald Searle, more recent Americans like Barry Blitt, John Cuneo, and international stars like Boulet and Tomer Hanuka.  I also dig John McLeod, Eddie Campbell, Sam Keith, Tradd Moore, and Craig Thompson, though I don't know if they count as influences.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

It's a cliche, but I would do everything sooner.  They best time to make mistakes is when you have nothing to lose, and NO ONE in the whole world has less to lose than an art student.  We are at the bottom of the barrel, right under war refugees and homeless vets.  I also would have made friends with more people, while I was stuck in a building with them every day.

What work are you best-known for?

My best-known work, sadly, is "Arkham Daycare," a Scottie Young-style piece imagining the Batman villains as toddles under the supervision of a very tired Jim Gordon.  I spent a good month chasing it around the internet and typing my attribution information in comments section.

What work are you most proud of?

I had my work put on the side of a city bus in Charlottesville, VA for a year.  I did a wraparound mural of various dinosaurs, life-size, WITH FEATHERS, so that kids who might not otherwise be able to go to a natural history museum could experience a little science.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

The huge majority of my time is taken up working on non-comic-related projects (hence why I only put out one mini-comic per year), but I am slowly drawing out the graphic novel I slowly wrote, which I imagine will take another few years to actually finish.  It's a murder mystery in the vein of Clue.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

When I'm in a rut, I watch TV and don't work at all.  I recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a deadline.  When I have writer's block, I usually think about the last thing I felt strongly enough about to comment on a website about.  There's usually an equally emotional response, and if you give those emotions to fictional characters, you can create a scenario that, in real life, would never be satisfactorily resolved.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Print is dying, but hopefully it will last long enough that I will die first.

What local cons do you attend besides DC Zinefest? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Beyond DC Zinefest, I always go to SPX, though I've only won the table lottery once, and I try to attend the Richmond Zinefest in October and DC Art Book Fair in December.  A friend of mine, LA Johnson, helps put it on.  I tabled at Awesome Con once, and the Richmond Comic-Con once, and both were only slightly more pleasant than absolutely miserable.  No one goes to those for original art, only fan art and celebrity autographs.  I highly suggest trying the gyro platter at the Greek place around the corner from SPX.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

My favorite DC things would probably be Ben's Chili Bowl, and the Botanical Garden.  If they could combine the two, I doubt I'd ever have another weekend free.

Least favorite?

Could I be a true DCer if I said I hated anything more than my commute?  Also, the fat orange man who lives in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue could go away at any time.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

I'd like to say the Renwick, because it's free and off the beaten path, but the last museum I actually DID take a visitor to was the American University Museum, to see the Ralph Steadman retrospective. They were handing out free bottles of that beer he draws the labels for.  I took a few home.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I already mentioned Ben's Chili Bowl, so I'll have to run with Bakers and Baristas, on 7th St NW, solely for the butterkuchen.  That is the cake all other cakes want to be, fail miserably at, and die with regret in their heart for.

Do you have a website or blog?

You can find my business site at  It includes a blog which is mostly just movie reviews, and a few digitized zines.  I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @phostetlerart.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Rachelle Holloway

by Mike Rhode

DC Zinefest 2018 recently had a successful day out at Art Enables on Rhode Island Ave. I met at least six cartoonists who were new to me, and said hi to at least three I already know. (My photos are here). Rachelle Holloway, an illustrator and cartoonist, is the first to answer our usual questions.
What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I am currently a freelance illustrator for Mascot Books. I work on children's books and draw my own webcomic, A Little Dragon Trouble, on the side. When it comes to my own personal work, I love drawing fantasy and artwork with a Scandinavian feel to it.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Most of my work is done using the computer. But I also enjoy using traditional pen and ink. Sometimes I get tired staring at the computer screen, so drawing traditionally can be relaxing. I love painting with gouache and watercolor, and I also enjoy cut paper art.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the West Coast, mainly in San Diego, California and Washington State. That's where I call home.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

In 2014, I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a B.F.A in Animation. I mainly focused on 2D animation, but my primary focus and interest was Concept Art and Visual Development. I took one Sequential Art class while I was in college, but when it comes to comics, I am mostly self taught.

Who are your influences?

I have so many influences that I can't list them all. I find inspiration from everywhere and everyone! Here is a small list of people who influence my work: John Howe; John Bauer; Lorelay Bove; Brittney Lee

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

If I were granted a do-over, I may have studied Illustration or Graphic Design. I don't regret studying animation, in fact, it has helped me with the creative work I’m currently doing. But on the East Coast, I have discovered a lot of skills people are looking for in the creative industry are Typography, Web and Graphic design. But that hasn’t stopped me from pursuing that education. I just finished a Web Design class at Northern Virginia Community College, and am learning new skills to better myself as a creative professional.

What work are you best-known for?

I feel I am not really best-known for anything in particular yet. My Zine, My Dog is More Paranoid Than I Am, is my most popular comic. I'm also known for having a lot of Scandinavian/Viking artwork, which gets people’s attention.

What work are you most proud of?

I am personally most proud of my webcomic, A Little Dragon Trouble. For my Senior Film In college, I wasn't able to fully do what I wanted to do. So a few years later, I developed A Little Dragon Trouble. My webcomic has also helped me in so many other ways. It has helped me gain an audience. The visual development of the comic was recognized on Behance and featured on Small Press Expo's tumblr blog. It is because of this comic I am where I am today.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I would like to self publish my own picture book. After illustrating a kids book for an author, I was inspired to create a short story myself. I would love to have the time to illustrate and self-publish it. I also have many comic and story ideas written down, and would like to make them a reality.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

When I'm having writer’s block, I write down situations or events I don't want happening in my story. Sometimes it ends up being a good idea anyway. Another approach is don't think, just write! Even if you know it's bad. You can always go back and change it later.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I definitely see myself continuing being an illustrator and getting more requests from authors. But, I hope one day to be employed in the animation industry. But in the meantime, freelance illustration is what's keeping me going!

What local cons do you attend besides DC Zinefest? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I just started tabling for the first time in 2017. DC Zinefest was the first event I tabled at. I also tabled at Richmond Zinefest last year. I would love to attend larger cons such as Small Press Expo, but I want to have more work under my belt before I do that. It is a goal I am striving for.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I'm originally from the West Coast, so finding things to love about DC was a challenge when I first arrived. In 2016, I found out that DC has an amazingly open and welcoming sequential art culture. Everyone's work is so Indie and original, I love it! They are willing to express themselves and everyone supports each other. It's because of that culture I felt comfortable enough to start displaying my own work. DC has helped me grow as an artist, even though the artist culture is small. But that's what makes it so great!

How about a favorite local restaurant?

There's this wonderful place called the JINYA Ramen Bar in Fairfax, VA. I like to go there to celebrate the completion of large projects.

Do you have a website or blog? 

"A traditional ink trading card I sold at last years Richmond Zinefest."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

John K Snyder III on ‘Eight Million Ways to Die’

Images from Eight Million Ways to Die courtesy of John K Snyder III and IDW
By Matt Dembicki

Comics creator John K Snyder III spent much of his early career in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., but these days lives in western Virginia. He occasionally visits the area for local comics shows and to catch up with friends. John will be in town Saturday, July 14, at Big Planet Comics in Bethesda to sign his new graphic novel Eight Million Ways to Die, an adaptation of the Lawrence Block detective novel.(See info, below.)

Below is a Q&A we did with John about the new book ahead of this weekend’s signing.

What was it about Eight Million Ways to Die — Lawrence Block’s fifth book featuring the gumshoe Matthew Scudder — that you thought would be ideal to adapt into a graphic novel?

I thought Block's study of the human condition told through the detective/mystery genre lent itself to do something other than the typical slam-bang action sometimes associated with pulp fiction comics, though there's certainly enough of it in the story as well. Also, Block's work is very much dialogue-driven, which makes it a natural to adapt to the panel-to-panel format of comics storytelling.

What was your approach to adapting the book? Was Block involved in the process, or did he just hand it off to you? How involved were IDW editors?

I worked solo on the adaptation, and Lawrence was shown pages from time to time by my editor, Tom Waltz. It was always great to get a short note back he was pleased with how it was progressing, that's all I needed to hear to keep moving on. My adaptation process was to keep Block's writing as close to the original as possible, and to focus on the key points of the story to mirror as much of the feel and pace of the original novel. It was a very involved and fluid process, I had to be open to revise and cut sequences all the way through to the end. My gracious editor, Tom Waltz, gave me a free hand to tell the story my way, for that I'll always be grateful. Lawrence Block read and approved of the book once it was completely adapted, illustrated and lettered (by Frank Cvetkovic). Lawrence Block's enthusiastic response to the final product was just wonderful.

The story takes place in the early 1980s, but it’s not stylized in a 1980s kind or way, nor is it overloaded with cultural references that might date it. How did you balance that?

I thought of it in real time, how do we experience our day-to-day lives now? What marks the time period we are in? Our own daily cultural reminders are subtle, in the clothing, the technology, what's in the background. In this graphic novel, it's 1982 New York City—the characters use land line phones, answering services, and phone booths, read newspapers, people look for people by going to their familiar hangouts on the notion they'll be there, not by texting in advance. So the period is defined enough by the characters' actions, how they get around—there's not too much of a need to layer on top of that with additional symbols of the period. I did throw in a concert poster of The Who at Shea Stadium, with opening act, The Clash. That's a cultural moment that was a sign of the changing times, and in fact, The Clash weren't around long after that. It's good to throw in some specific references, but to choose ones that count.

The book has an incredible gritty atmosphere, conveyed through the way you illustrated it. Can you briefly outline your approach? I believe you drew and colored it by hand? How long did the project take, including the writing and illustrating?

I wrote a detailed explanation of my process in a recent article. But for the somewhat shorter version, the pages are all done by hand, fully penciled, sometimes inked, and light to solid color rendering over the pencil/ink, then all adjusted in photoshop, making multiple scans of the pages in different stages and layering them in portions, fusing them all together for the final effect. I guess you could say it's a little like old school animation, laying different animation cels one atop another to create depth. Being the first time adapting Block's work and also developing this illustration process, it took a considerable amount of time to figure it all out, but by the time it got to the last third or so of the book, I had it down to a rhythm of regular production.

Although the story takes place in New York City, did you look back to you time living in D.C. in the ‘80s (which itself was rather gritty at that time) for particular influences?

Absolutely! The book takes place in fall of 1982, at that time, I was living on King St in Old Town Alexandria, pre-Metro Station, and it held its own kind of dystopian vibe, though certainly not on the epic scale of New York City. I would regularly head down to DC Space at 7th and E streets NW and the original 9:30 Club at the Atlantic Building at 930 F Street NW, all of which was just a short drive away from Alexandria. And Old Town had its own little dive club, The Upstairs 704, directly on 704 King St. There was plenty of past inspiration to draw on between all of those locations alone, believe me. And I was quite enamored of New York City, my first time there was in the summer of 1981 — it was a brief visit, but I kept that in mind as well. All in all, it was quite an era. I hope readers will get some of the vibe of that period while reading the adaptation as well.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Paul Merklein's 'exit interview'

by Mike Rhode

Paul Merklein wrote in to say that the cartooning course he's been teaching for Arlington County needs a new teacher because he's leaving the area for Wisconsin. I last interviewed Paul in 2015 - (where the images seem to have broken - sorry!). With three cartoonists departing the area  in a month (Jason Axtell is also moving for family reasons, and Vanessa Bettancourt also did so recently), I suggested we do an 'exit interview' with Paul to ask about his plans for the future.

MR: Why are you moving?

PM: My family and I moved to Silver Spring in 2009, and we're moving back to Wisconsin for a variety of reasons that involve being closer to our family there.

MR: Are you continuing the Dabney and Dad strip after you move? Is Facebook still your distribution method for it?

PM: I consider Facebook to be the most effective platform to deliver your cartoons to your audience.  Newspapers and magazines are going the way of the dodo, and books might be right behind them.  That said, my first "Dabney and Dad" book should be published before the end of the year.  You can see my cartoons at

MR: For the past few years, you taught cartooning in Arlington? What did that entail?

PM: I was hired to do two things I love to do - draw cartoons, and talk about cartooning.  My students were teens and tweens - some just beginners, and some who were already skilled.  I enjoyed the conversations and questions.  Many of the students have never read a newspaper, and only know cartoons from book collections.  "Calvin and Hobbes" is still incredibly popular.

MR: Is there anything in particular you'll miss about DC?

PM: I love the people in DC, our neighborhood in Silver Spring, crab shacks on the eastern shore, and more places than I can count.  We already miss Obama in the White House.

MR: What's your favorite cartoon-related memory or event or place?

PM: I met a lot of famous cartoonists at Comic Cons - Stan Lee, Jeff Smith (Bone), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Frank Cho, Jules Feiffer, and Liza Donnelly and Sam Gross from The New Yorker.  I also met cartoon editors like Amy Lago, and Bob Mankoff and Emma Allen at The New Yorker.  They all said they liked my cartoons and wanted to see more.

I still enjoy writing and drawing cartoons, and I believe the digital world is an ideal place for them.  People's attention spans keep getting shorter, and cartoons are a perfect way to tell a very short story.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sara Duke discusses Steve Geppi's Museum donation to the Library of Congress

By Mike Rhode

Shortly after the announcement that Steve Geppi of Baltimore would be closing his Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore and donating its holdings to the Library of Congress, I reached out to Library of Congress graphic arts curator Sara Duke (a personal friend of mine) for her thoughts on the donation.

MR: Whose idea was this donation? Did it come from the top down?

SD: My understanding is that Dr. Hayden and Steve Geppi have been long-term friends going back to her days at the Enoch Pratt library. The directive from inside the Library came from her, but the staff in the Prints and Photographs and Serials divisions were enthusiastic about the opportunity.

MR: Do you know what the offer consisted of originally? Was it the entire contents of the Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM)?

SD: Yes, we were told that we could have whatever we wanted from the museum. We don’t collect many three-dimensional objects, even though we’re in the process of building three more storage modules at Fort Meade to store our book collection, but even with that we don’t have sufficient space to store objects properly. So the decision was made to be very selective about 3-D works of art, but to be inclusive of works of arts on paper, photographs, newsprint, comic books, Big Little Books, sheet music and even some recorded sound.

MR: How was material selected? Did each department in the Library handle its own specialty?

SD: Teams of people from the Prints & Photograph and Serials divisions went to Baltimore. We were provided with a spreadsheet from the Museum, probably created by an appraiser, and from the inventory list, we worked room by room deciding what was wanted, what was actually on the walls or in the cases but not on the inventory list, and trying to ascertain what would come to the Library. It took several trips to do that as you would imagine. We sat down as a team and we reached out to colleagues in other divisions about what they would and would not take. We created a list of desiderata to give to Mr. Geppi’s representatives.

MR: Was material that was not on display included as well?

SD: No.

MR: Where is some of the non-art or serial material such as the Big Little Books going?

SD: They’ll go to Rare Books. They already have a collection.

MR: Are they taking all of them or cherry picking?

SD: I believe they’re cherry picking so they don’t create a duplicate set. But the Serials division decided they would be inclusive and make the Geppi comic book set the exhibit-only set, while the existing comics in the Library would be the reference collection that researchers could handle. It’s been a research collection, and people have been looking at them… it’s a double-edged sword. If we never let anybody look at them, they’d be pristine, but we’re a research institution and people are supposed to look at and handle things.

MR: I’ve seen some lists of the donation in various press releases. What are the highlights for you or your department?

SD: There are memorable pieces like the nine-sheet Bambi poster. We have a few nine-sheet posters in our collection, some attached and some detached, but that’s in spectacular condition. I know we have the display space for it at the Library of Congress, but it’s never going to look like it did in Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. That makes me sad. It was an over-the-top lovely gem (pun intended) of a museum. What stood out to me beside that? There’s some great comic strip drawings, an overwhelming number of posters -- some of which may be duplicates of what we have, but without taking a photograph of every one on the wall and comparing them against our collection, we just don’t know, and we didn’t have time to do that. So we’re taking every single poster that was on the wall.

And just because something wasn’t on the walls doesn’t mean it’s gone from the collection. Michael, the curator there, said he was forever moving art in and out. Between the times we went out during a snowstorm in March and then again in April, he had rotated things from the warehouse and the Museum.

MR: What does that mean for you guys? If you get to pick from the Museum, does that include the warehouse too?

SD: That has not yet been offered to us.

MR: When did this start? Obviously it would be a complex negotiation.

SD: Late last year, or very early this year. Mr. Geppi came to visit the Library two or three times last year. One time he saw the original art for Amazing Fantasy #15 (aka the first appearance of Spider-Man – MR). He came back down for a private conversation with Dr. Hayden and then we started talking about going up to Baltimore to figure out what it would mean as an institution to absorb his collection. For a lot of institutions, absorbing 3,300 items would be overwhelming but for us it’s routine.

MR: The material is going to be divided by divisions when stored in the Library?

SD: Right. There’s some pressed records that are quite rare that are going to Recorded Sound. There are some videogame sets that the Motion Pictures Division has expressed interest in. The Rare Book Division is in charge of the Big Little Books and maybe some of the early bound volumes. Prints & Photograph and Serials are the benefactors, overwhelmingly.

MR: Will there be a Geppi Collection, or is the material being integrated into existing material? Is there going to be an organizing principle so someone could rebuild the collection?

SD: That will depend, division by division. We’ll be sitting down to hammer out a plan, but Prints & Photographs will record the provenance to the nth degree and it will be known as the Stephen A. Geppi Collection of Comics and Graphic Arts.

MR: Is he giving you any money to catalog the material?

SD: No.

MR: Do you have any more personal favorites besides Bambi?

SD: It’s a sweet poster, but there’s some spectacular early Yellow Kid material, there’s some really great trading cards, some patches minor league baseball teams and a poster marketing them… What’s really intriguing in the ability with this acquisition to tell a story that you would think we could tell through copyright deposits, but cannot. Some of it is so ephemeral that I don’t think people thought to copyright it and some of it, more recent material, hasn’t been required to be deposited for copyright so we just didn’t acquire it. As an institution that has been so dependent on copyright deposit for its growth, until 1978 when the rules about what was required to be deposited changed, it’s really refreshing to have a popular culture collection come into the institution. It resets that type of collection and gives us what we’re lacking.

MR: I’ve heard that the Copyright department doesn’t necessarily keep a lot of what comes in…

SD: The majority of material sent in is reproductions, so if it’s not up to a standard that we consider acceptable, such as color photocopies, we are selective about what we acquire for the permanent collections. We want as original and as best an edition as we can possibly have. The changes in copyright law meant that people have copyright protection from the moment of creation so they no longer have to pay a fee to protect their interest and copyright, so we just don’t get the volume that we got 100 years ago.

MR: Did you take the Yellow Kid buttons?

SD: We’re intending to. We’re also getting the Mickey Mouse animation drawings for Plane Crazy, so sitting next to the ‘birth certificate’ for Spider-Man will now be the ‘birth certificate’ for Mickey Mouse and that’s a pretty enormous acquisition for the Library.

MR: The ones he donated to Mort Walker’s museum and then had to buy back when they auctioned them off to keep their doors open?

SD: It’s sad [when you consider] the number of cartoon museums that have closed in the last twenty years. Art Wood’s to Mort Walker’s to the Toonseum in Pittsburgh, and now Geppi. It’s a hard economy for something that’s so popular with America. It’s interesting that George Lucas is now opening an entertainment museum in California, but it seems like it’s a hard sell. Why is that? Is it that people of a certain income are willing to patronize fine art, but are not willing to patronize cartoon art? Is it just not enough of a draw to make people go back again and again? I certainly went to the Geppi Museum several times, and my son always had it on his required activity list for Baltimore. But apparently it wasn’t on enough people’s required activity list unfortunately. So who has benefited? It’s been larger repositories. 

MR: My suspicion is that most mid-size cities have a comprehensive art museum, such as Indianapolis or Omaha, that covers 1000 years of art history without anyone thinking twice about it, but a standalone specialty museum probably always have more trouble than any other type. You can have a science, or natural history, or art museum and people can find enough different things to keep coming back for. When it’s a specialized museum that doesn’t change, or not as often, it probably affects attendance.

SD: For small museums, with small staffs, I think it’s hard to build programming to get people in the door consistently. And for all museums, they’ll never make more than 15% of their revenue in admission fees. They’re dependent on grants, memberships, special events, things like that.

MR: What else should I have asked about?

SD: What I try to make clear to everybody, is that while the Library is honored to have this collection, we are very saddened by the circumstances that led it to coming here. They did the right thing. The museum code of ethics says you don’t sell your collection, but you donate it to another institution. It’s a magnanimous gift. It really is. Quite frankly, it blows my socks off. We could never afford to buy or build this collection. People think the Library of Congress has bottomless pockets, but we don’t. We can’t afford to compete at auction for comic books and cartoon art and posters. We can buy selectively, but very few items come to us each year by purchase compared to what we get from gifts. This gift is amazing.

I think we can do it justice. There will be people that will resent that we can’t recreate GEM in its entirety and we can’t, but anybody with a reader’s card is welcome to come in and make use of the collection.

MR: There’s always going to be a difference between a museum, a library, and an archive, and no museum can put everything on display anyway.

SD: Right, and our exhibit space represents the wealth of the Library’s collections, so the graphic arts display is always going to be much smaller than GEM’s footprint. We will start exhibiting selections later this summer and we have every intention of creating a space in which comics and other works from the collection are featured prominently. It’s going to be very difficult to get it down to the Library. The Bambi and Ten Commandments posters are 90 x 90 inches. Finding physical room to store it and make it accessible to researchers is going to be challenging to say the least, but it’s a labor of love.

There were about 125 pieces of ‘original art’ – hand-drawn comic strips and animation cels – but we consider the posters and ephemera to be original art, so what’s coming to Prints & Photographs is probably equal to the number of comic books. It might not be equal in monetary value, and people would argue if it’s equal in historical value, but I make a case that it is. Monetary value aside, original art, posters and ephemera are equally important in understanding American popular culture. It’s a very, very generous gift and not one that we could replicate any other way.