Podcast - Episode 153: The Nameless City

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The penultimate week of our summer book club! We are talking about Faith Erin Hicks' amazing series, The Nameless City. Well, technically just the first book, but the third and final book is out on Sept 25 and I can't wait!!!!

Ok, you guys wanna see the drawing J.Bone did of my characters, Scott and Kip, from my upcoming hockey romance book Game Changer? Of course you do!

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Eeeeee!!!! Look at them!!!! So in love.

Thanks again to Matt for commissioning that sketch for my birthday! Best present ever!

And, if you are interested, here is an interview I did with Faith Erin Hicks way back in 2008 for the release of The War at Ellsmere!

Join us next week when we wrap up the summer book club with Infinity Gauntlet!


 We're having our second Ladies Night at Strange Adventures Comic Shop, this Friday, from 6 to 9pm!

You can read about the last Ladies Night, RSVP on Facebook, and check out our special guests Raina Telgemeier and Faith Erin Hicks. Other special guests include me, Rachelle, and Rachelle's baby—who will sketch anything you want, even Wolverine with Venom power.

Kyle Baker in Halifax! Tomorrow!

The incomparable KYLE BAKER will be speaking at the Halifax North Branch Library tomorrow afternoon! Baker, as you probably know, is an incredibly prolific writer and illustrator, who has won every comics-related award there is and worked for every publisher and company in the business. I just read (or in some cases re-read) a bunch of his stuff including Nat Turner, Why I Hate Saturn and The Bakers books—all amazing, and each totally different from the last. Baker's work is as diverse as it is brilliant.

Baker's talk is part of a day-long Graphic Novel Camp—an event providing education about comics and celebrating the medium. LBW's BFFs Mike Holmes and Faith Erin Hicks will also be there, as well as Kate Beaton (of Hark! A Vagrant fame), and the wonderful Rebecca Kraatz (if you haven't read her book, House of Sugar, do it! And check out the beautiful wood-burned images on her website. Looking at them is like a present you give yourself).

For more information about the Graphic Novel Camp event go here.

This is event is free! So come by! 

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE: Interview with Calum Johnston!

It's almost that time again! The comic bookiest day of the year! FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

In Halifax, we do it up right. It's a real comicpalooza, and it's all orchestrated by Calum Johnston.

Cal has owned and operated Strange Adventures in Halifax for thirteen years, and he's run the earth 2 version of Strange Adventures in Fredericton for fifteen. He's well known as the godfather of the Halifax comics scene, encouraging local artists, organizing community events, and breaking fingers when he needs to. I think he forced Darwyn Cooke to move to Nova Scotia at gunpoint. Strange Adventures is a household name in Halifax, and all over Canada, and Halifax is just a comicy city, thanks to Cal. It's actually pretty rare that I have to have that "Wha? People still buy comic books?" conversation. A big part of that is Strange Adventures' amazing and elaborate Free Comic Book Day event.

Cal is a busy dude, but he made time to tell LBW readers all about it.

When did Strange Adventures start participating in Free Comic Book Day?

Starting with the very first one about 8 years ago. It was thought up by Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics in California while he was at an ice cream parlour that was giving out free kiddie cones so folks could try new flavours. (Thanks, Joe!)

What usually goes down, and what can folks expect for this year?

Comic book madness, that's what happens!

We divide the comics, about 20,000 of them, into three age groups: appropriate for all-ages, teens, and mature. Then we cover tables with the comics and open the doors and let folks in. Each person is given a Free Comic Book Day bag and they can fill it up with dozens of comics. Not only are many of the official FCBD comics available, we also give out comics from our backstock, from collections bought over the past year and from comics donated by some of our customers.

Volunteers are on hand to keep the tables full, answer any questions, and some dress up in super-hero costumes to add to the festive feel. Magician Mister J performs for a few hours, entertaining people with his magic and making balloon animals for kids. Several cartoonists give up their Saturday to give kids sketches of their favourite characters.

Why do you feel Free Comic Book Day is important?

The event puts comics in the hands of people. That's the most important part, in my mind. The more people who are exposed to the wonderful world of comics, the more readers comics will have, and the more the merrier. I have great faith in what I sell and I believe that there is a comic book for everyone, they just need to find it. Free Comic Book Day helps give them a chance to sample what comics have to offer.

Do you think Free Comic Book Day reflects changes happening in the comic industry?

Perhaps it is a sign that the industry as a whole has woken up and is working on maintaining and improving the overall health and profile of the industry.   It certainly reflects one good change in the comics world. The event is made possible through great co-operation between printers, publishers, creators, distributors and retailers. Still, more needs to be done to make FCBD perfect and I hope we can work towards that goal.

How can people—retailers and average folks—get involved?

On May 2nd, visit your local comic book store and bring a friend. Bring someone who hasn't read comics in years or ever! Check out the freecomicbookday.com website, print off some of the info and post it at your local school, library, or workplace. Retailers should already be finalizing their plans; sending out press releases, arranging advertising,  passing out fliers with info on FCBD.

You seem like an exceptionally great guy who gives a lot back to his community. Is this a cover-up so no one suspects all the bodies in your basement?

Completely a cover-up to mask my night job as an international jewel thief.

I don't think I'm an exceptionally great guy. I'm a very lucky guy who gets to share his love of comics with many people every day. I play matchmaker, striving to introduce someone to a comic they will enjoy.  You make a match, and you open a new world of fantastic stories for them. There's good days and bad days in any business, and at the end of my worst day - I can always remember connecting someone with a  book they love.

I am a very lucky guy who has the best job in the world.


2009 Shuster Awards Nominees Announced!

The nominees for the 2009 Joe Shuster Awards for Canadian Comic Book Creators were announced today! The full list of nominees can be viewed on the official website here.

Among the nominees are our local pals Darwyn Cooke (best cartoonist, best writer, best cover art), Steve McNiven (best artist, best cover art) and Faith Erin Hicks (best cartoonist)! Yay! Also, Dave's buddy on the other side of the country, Steve Rolston, was nominated for best artist!

Sadly, local cartoonist Ray Fenwick failed to get a nomination for his amazing collection, Hall of Best Knowledge (Fantagraphics). Also, J. Bone not being recognized for his awesome cover work on Super Friends is just insane. One look at the list of nominees tells you how much comic book talent we have here in Canada, and you should see who didn't make the cut! We are overflowing with talent from sea to frigid sea!

This was my second year on the panel of judges(?) to pick the shortlist, and it's something I love to be a part of. The winners will be announced in Toronto on June 27th (I believe at a ceremony that is part of the Toronto ComicCon?).

Congratulations to all the nominees and good luck!

Faith Erin Hicks on The War At Ellsmere

Today sees the release of Faith Erin Hicks' second book, The War At Ellsmere. I read an advance copy of the book and it is fantastic.

The story, like all good ones, is set in a boarding school. It focuses on Jun, a poor girl who is admitted to the posh school on a full scholarship due to her genius IQ. Jun immediately feels out-of-place, but is determined to not let it bother her. While there she manages to make one good friend, and one mortal enemy.

Where Zombies Calling, Hicks' debut, was a zany romp with zombies and social commentary on student loans, Ellsmere is a little darker and far more subdued. The ink-heavy art and the gothic setting give the story a very dreamy feel, which is enhanced by the magic realism Hicks' incorporates into the book to keep readers on their toes. The book also has lots of humour and witty dialogue. I am a huge fan of Hicks' facial expressions.

After the disappointing cancellation of the Minx line of books for teen girls, it's exciting to see SLG publishing such a excellent book for the same audience. In fact, this is one of the best books I've seen for teen girls in awhile, at least as good as Hope Larson's Chiggers, or Mike Carey's Re-Gifters. If all is right in the world, then this book should secure Hicks' spot among the top indie comic creators.

I did a Q&A with the Halifax-based, football-loving, ultra-talented and all around super nice Faith Erin Hicks. If you want to meet her (and you DO), then stop by Strange Adventures comic shop in Halifax this Saturday, Dec 6 from 6pm-8pm for her book launch. Last time she did one at the shop there was a line-up out the door!

Alright, here's the Q&A. I'm in purple, in case you can't follow.

Boarding schools are totally awesome places for stories to be set. What is it about them that makes them so awesome?

The greatest thing about setting a story in a boarding school is that there are no parents. The teachers are there and provide some kind of authority figure, but boarding school is a great way to set up a story where children are pretty much on their own, but not in a dangerous way. They're still properly fed and not harassed by terrifying island monsters like in Lord of the Flies. Plus I'm a bit of a sucker for rich, old, Victorian meets Fairytale architecture, which you just have to have in a boarding school story.

What was your school experience like growing up? Is there any of yourself in Jun?

I was homeschooled growing up (until high school), so that's probably why the idea of boarding school is so exotic to me: the idea of being in an environment that excludes parents and where you're surrounded by children your own age. I think I was more like Cassie than Jun when I was a kid. I was pretty shy and mousey, and very dreamy. I liked talking to trees and had this idea that everything magical I'd read in stories was the absolute truth. I never had cool come-backs to the mean kids like Jun has.

I did go to a hyper-competitive animation college, though, which is where the sabotage-heavy environment at Ellsmere comes from.

Something that I thought was really interesting about this book is that there are virtually no male characters at all. I don't really have a question here, but maybe you want to comment on that.

In a much earlier draft of the story, there was a male character, a standard tweeny love interest which I included because I really thought I couldn't do a story without a male character. I've always had male characters in my comics; I like writing them, and I felt like I would be excluding people if I wrote a story without a male character. However, as Ellsmere progressed, I realized that the male character I'd created didn't fit with the story at all, and for the sake of the story, I should just toss him and hope that my readers wouldn't have a huge problem with it.

There's another element there in that I wanted to do a story about two girls fighting, and have the fight not be over a boy. Those kind of stories always leave me cold, and I can't remember reading many where you have women doing battle with each other over things other than men. And I'm a little tired of that stereotype. I want something different! This probably sounds completely pretentious, but I wanted to do something almost ... I don't know, Shakespearean. I wanted to have this Good Verses Evil fight, the kind of battle you see in plays like MacBeth or movies like Star Wars, but have the battle be between two young girls. But, of course, still have that battle be appropriate for younger readers. No hands getting chopped off by lightsabers here, kids.

This is your second published graphic novel. Do you feel like a comic book star yet? Have you had some exciting fame moments?

Oh, lord no. I'm always terrified someone's going to leap out of a bush and yell that I'm a complete fake and can't draw worth beans, and take away all my comic projects. I'm completely blown away that I've found anyone willing to publish me, let alone done as well as I have. Honestly, working in comics, I feel more like a fan than a professional. I'm always so excited to meet people who do comics for a living, and so thrilled when they actually take the time to talk to me.

I'm trying to tone it down, really. It's not the most professional thing to start squealing and giggling every time you meet a fellow cartoonist. But comics are just so exciting!

Your art is beautiful and it reminds me a bit of Paul Pope or Ryan Kelly. Who are your favourite artists or influences?

Paul Pope is a huge influence. I love his work. It's completely unlike anything I've ever seen, and he seems able to take cliches and overcome them through sheer drawing power. He's incredible. Ryan Kelly I like as well, although I've only recently been picking up his work. My number one art god is Jeff Smith, although nobody's ever told me my art looks like his ... Jim Rugg and Ted Naifeh are also worthy of worship. I like any artist who inks like nobody's business. I love ink.

So what's next for you? Are you going to return to your webcomic, Ice? Or are you going to swim in your piles of book money?

Hah, yes, I go diving in my giant pile of comic book money every morning, just like Scrooge McDuck! I would very much like to finish Ice, as it's close to completion, but I'm currently neck deep in my next project, drawing a graphic novel for First Second Books. I'm going to try and work on Ice soon, though. I don't like that it's unfinished, and I think it's a good story. I'd like to see it through.