Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Comics of 2012: By This You Shall Know Him

"By This You Shall Know Him" by Jesse Jacobs debuted at TCAF this past Spring by the great Koyama Press. I've been a fan of Jesse's for a few years now, ever since I read one of his minis for the Doug Wright Awards. 

I think he is one of the great new talents in comics. His work is inventive, fresh, vibrant and full of life. His use of colour is to die for and makes me green with envy.

This 2-tone 88-page oversized tome is very hard book to describe, but Squidface and the Meddler does a good job of summing it up: "The story follows the birth of life, humanity, and good and evil, as the unintended side effects of a game of show and tell between squabbling, god-like celestial beings".

Pick it up today and you'll able to say you knew about him way back when. He's also just a really good guy. While you're at it, pick up his first book by AdHouse Books "Even the Giants" which is equally great.

Best Comics of 2012 - Kid Mafia

It bugs me when I read about cartoonists who don't read comics. Why devote yourself to an art that you aren't immersed in/enthralled with? Honestly I think there are more good comics being produced today than ever before, so there's no excuse not to be reading somehting great, whether it's a mainstream comic, indie graphic novel, kids comic or mini-comic.

The secret has been out about Michael DeForge (multiple Doug Wright Award winner) for some time now. The guy is a comics-making machine. When he's not doing Lose for Koyama Press, his webcomic Ant Comic, or various one-shots, he's busy making mini-comics the old-fashioned way => stapling and folding a comic himself in very limited quantities. Some of these minis really represent his best work, his mini-comic "Kid Mafia" is one of my picks for Best Comics of 2012.

Kid Mafia by Michael DeForge

This past year I picked up "Kid Mafia" #1 and #2 at the Beguiling in Toronto. These are two little square-shaped minis about Franco, a high-school dropout and skater kid does all the regular teen things like hanging out by the variety store and playing video games with his friends. He also happens to be a crime boss and he's having an affair with his best friend's Mom.

This is a very fun, very well thought-out and polished book. Granted DeForge's minis are hard to find, but I think that's half the fun. With ebay and Amazon, there are very few comics that are hard to find and you need to seek out these days. It used to take me years to find certain back-issues for my collection and the hunt was half the fun. I am currently on the lookout for "Kid Mafia" #3 which recently came out. I neeeed it!

Luckily DeForge has posted the complete Kid Mafia #1 online at his website. You can read it here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best Comics of 2012 - Saga

Over the next week or so I'll be highlighting some of my favourite comics and graphic novels for 2012 (presented in no particular order). I've jotted down titles through the year from mainstream comics, to indie graphic novels, to mini-comics, to kids comics that I've really enjoyed. My first pick is Saga.

I can just about count on one hand the comics that I still buy monthly, and it's rare that a new comic enters the list. This past year, a new title did make it in though - Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics.

It's kind of a Romeo and Juliet story that takes place in a futuristic world. Marko has ram-like horns with magical powers, Alana has wings and comes from a technologically advanced society. Both were soldiers fighting on opposing sides of a war. They are now war deserters with a small baby. They're trying to make a quiet life together while dealing with the disapproval of their parents, and being hunted down by a variety of people.

This is a science fiction story in the truest sense, in that it does what the best science fiction stories do - they show you a vision of the future that makes you think differently about the present. It's really finely crafted and lavishly illustrated. I take great joy in the fact that Fiona Staples, a Canadian, does such a wonderful job in what's typically a very male realm - a futuristic space opera-like story. She can do everything from great battle scenes, to tender family moments.

When the first issue came out it caused a big commotion because it starts with a childbirth scene and then shows Alana breastfeeding her newborn baby Hazel. Some fanboys were offended by that. So crazy huh? The scene is no gimmick though, it fits the story and the characters and I loved it. Great comic.

The first trade paperback is now available.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Artists Affair

Coming this December 8 at the Artfusion Gallery, Citi Plaza, London Ontario is An Artists Affair is back and I am one of the exhibitors.

This is not your grandma’s craft show and will be a perfect spot to pick up unique gifts for Christmas. There will also be live music from fabulous, local musicians like Duane Lauzon and Leah Morise. This show is put on by the good folks at 379 Collective. I was at last year's event and it was really nicely done.

What I'll Have Available

I'll have my Forest City Prints. These are limited edition, hand letterpress prints on 130 lb Coronado paper, done in 4 different colours. Size is 12 x 16. Cost is $35.00 unframed, $75.00 framed.

 Also available is my Superman print. $20.00 in red or blue. 
I'll have all 3 of my t-shirt styles available: the Kazoo shirt, my Surfer shirt and "Pursued by a Bear shirt". They are 100% cotton, pre-shrunk, AL Style tee that have been hand-silkscreened by the good folks at Fresh Ink Apparel. Cost is $20.00 each.

Right now I have a number of different colours in all different sizes for Men and Women. Come early for best selection as I'll be sure to sell out of some sizes before the end of the day.

Greeting Cards

I'll have some comic-themed greeting cards for sale. $4.00 each, or 3 for $10.00

I'll be bringing some items from my collection like this 2 LP set of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds Broadcast ($10). Not sure what all else I'll bring, some comics and graphic novels for sure - you'll have to come by to see!

Lastly, I'll probably bring a few pieces of my own original art with me and some comics too!

For More Information
Admission: a suggested donation of $2 or a canned good in support of The London Food Bank. But no one will be refused!Parking available at Citi Plaza.

For more info and a full list of vendors, see

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Justin Trudeau - Comic Geek

Tonight it is widely expected that Justin Trudeau, Member of Parliament for Papineau, Quebec and son of arguable our most famour Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - will formally declare himself a candidate for the leader of the Federal Liberal Party of Canada.

For all intents and purposes, it looks like he has a solid shot at winning. Why should nerds care? Because apart from being a fresh face on the political scene who brings with him some much needed energy, charisma and understanding of what people under 60 care about - he is ONE OF US.

Justin Trudeau - The Nerd
A few weeks ago, the Montreal Comic-Con took place (September 14-16 to be exact). I had a few friends who were exhibiting and others who were up for a few Joe Shuster Awards, so I was following coverage of the event pretty closely. I was more than a little surprised when I saw that Justin Trudeau, MP took in the show along with his kids.

"That's so cool that he did that. He's so down to earth" - I thought. Then he posted a couple of pictures of himself at the show on his twitter stream in French (yes he's fully bilingual too)
Bien fier d’avoir pu déchaîner mon côté geek en me faisant arrêter par des stormtroopers à #comicon #montreal.

And in English:
Went to the Montreal #ComicCon (for my kids, really!) and totally groupied out on Dark Helmet! Embarrassed, yet proud.  

He likes comics, he likes Star Wars, he likes Mel Brooks! ONE OF US.

Not that I really needed to be won over, because like many in the country I've been impressed with him since his speech at his father's memorial ceremony. Add to that that he's intelligent, well-spoken, shares the same ideals as I do, well what can I say? Plus he's dreamy.

Thought I'd end this post with some faux campaign posters my buddy Chip (aka Steve Murray of the National Post) recently did up:

I went to University at Concordia in Montreal back in the early 90s. One grey, foggy Sunday afternoon, I was walking down Sherbrooke St.,  a person in the distance was walking towards me. Their gait and figure were so familiar to me I was convinced it was a family friend who I couldn't quite place.

I walked faster towards him, thinking I would recognize him when I got closer, and I was ready to give him a big hello. When I was within a few feet of the man, I realized it was Pierre Trudeau.

I slowed right down almost to a stop, he looked up at me, gave me a warm smile and a nod, then tipped his hat. I stood there like a dummy and nodded back, with a goofy smile on my face as I watched him walk by.

This must have happened to him every day. I was honestly proud that he could walk down the street by himself, no bodyguards or entourage in sight. It was a charming Canadian moment. I wish I had shook his hand though. Fuddle duddle.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Visual Fringe - June 6 - June 17

This Thursday, June 7th is the Opening Night party for the Visual Fringe and official kick off of the London Fringe Festival.

The Fringe runs from June 6- June 17 and is 12 days, 44 theatre companies, 35 visual artists, 350 performances. This is always a really fun time of the year and I love participating.

I'll be showing and selling the following works:
  • Forest City Prints ($35.00 each, $75.00 framed)
  • Behold Orion! ($125.00 framed)
  • Destination Moon - SOLD.
  • Krypton Crawl Prints ($20.00 each, $35.00 framed)
Here's a sneak peek of what it will look like (Rosie and Dave helped me hang the show)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Three in the Head, Two in the Back

OK - ready for a crazy coincidence? As many of you know, I've been working for several years now on a graphic novel about the life of Canadian scientist Gerald Bull.

Well, Passionfool - a terrific local theatre company, is putting on the play "Three in the Head, Two in the Back" based on Bull's life. When I found out about it way back in January - I approached the artistic directors and showed them my work to date on the project.

The result? They'll be using my artwork as backdrops for the set! I also created an original piece just for the production.

They specifically asked for a portrait of Bull as a young man in his happier days. In my view, Bull only really came fully alive when he met his wife Mimi, so the portrait had to be with her on their wedding day. Here it is.

A description of the production:
"Jason Sherman’s celebrated and fast paced thriller about a man brought down by his own illusions and the treachery of Governments.

Inspired by the real life murder of Canadian weapons scientist Gerald Bull, THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD grapples with the elusive nature of truth as the action of the play shifts across conflicting versions of the past.

Winner of the 1994 Governor General’s Award for Drama."

Seeing the Play

I've only read the screenplay and have never seen a live production. I also haven't seen what my artwork looks like blown up in the sets. I'm a bit nervous, but I'm really looking forward to it! If you're in the London area, I encourage you to check it out.

For the official opening night - Friday, April 20th, everyone in the audience will get a free copy of "The Paris Guns", the mini-comic of the first chapter of my Bull book.

The play runs from April 19th - May 5th, at The ARTS Project.

>> For full information, check out Passionfool's website.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Art of Social Media Seminar

This session at The ARTS Project will cover the basics of getting started in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Linked In, Soundcloud, etc), with the artist and small business owner in mind. Presented by Melissa Cheater (Lunch Break Media), Robin Honey (Honey Design), and me!

I'll be covering of the perspective of my experience as an artist using social media - benefits, challenges, etc along with some case studies, practical examples, tips and tricks.

Seminar Information
FREE to ARTS Project members. $25 at the door for non-members (basically that means if you buy a 1-year ARTS Project membership, you get in for free).

Takes place Wednesday, April 11th from 5:30 - 7:00 PM
>> See the website for full information.

The London Free Press' James Reaney wrote an article about the seminar in Saturday's paper.
You can check it out here: "Social Media's been 'tweet" for London Arts Organizers".

Sunday, April 01, 2012

UpwithArt - Supporting the Unity Project

UpwithArt is a great event to support the Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness in London. It's a fundraiser where you can bid on works from renowned, emerging, and Unity Project artists. It's going to be a really fun evening and I can't say enough good things about the Unity Project - they are a simply fantastic organization that has a huge impact on our local community.

Plus the artist roster is just stellar including Kelly Wallace, Jamelie Hassan, Larry Towell, Jason McLean, Jaime Q Ron Benner, Wyn Geleynse, Billy Bert Young, Marc Bell, Kim Moodie and me!

I did an original piece for the show - it's bigger and more colourful than my usual work. It's inspired by a photo that Rosie took recently on Isla Mujeres, Mexico. When faced with something like this - where I want to do something gorgeous that'll appeal to a wide audience so that'll sell and make some money for the cause, I tend to fall back on advice from Jack Chambers that my uncle John passed on to me.

"When in doubt, paint flowers. Everyone always likes flowers." 

So that's what I did. Here's my piece below. It's in oil pastels, is 22.5 x 16.5 and is fully framed by the good folks at Strand Fine Arts. Bidding starts at $75.00.

Most of the bidding will take place in person at the event. So come out, have fun, support a good cause and pick up some great artwork at some affordable prices! To see all the work, bid online, and to buy your tickets, go here:

Recent Coverage
I was asked to be the artist representative for the show,and because of this ended up doing a bunch of media interviews. Here's a few that also give some good background on the show as well as the Unity Project.
>> Up with Art for Unity - London Community News
>> UpwithArt Ups the Ante to Combat Homelessness - Metro
>> Unity Through Art - The Londoner

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Starbucks Show for Month of April

Thanks to the good folks at the Fringe Festival, my work will be featured at the downtown Starbucks at 601 Richmond at Central (by Victoria Park).

I'll have some of my Forest City Prints and tree series on display (and for sale)! Mini-show will run all through the month of April!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Part 4: Comics

My last post of my Holiday Gift Guide list - the best comics of the year! Just as a reminder, I'm looking specifically at items that would make great gifts and are made by Canadians (or produced by Canadian companies).

Why this focus? Because I'm a Canuck and frankly some of the best comics being produced in the world right now are by Canadians, so why not shine a light on them?

Here are the links to my previous posts:

Comics, the backbone of the industry, and for indies in particular, the format that used to be the most dynamic and interesting. It it wasn't for the triumvirate of  Love and Rockets, Neat Stuff and Eightball in the 1980's, I can honestly say that I would have stopped reading comics. Together they opened up a fantastic new world of possibilities for the medium I had fallen in love with (but whose interest in was waning).

Today, the comic (or "pamphlet" - a condescending term I hate) is a dying format, with graphic novels becoming the main format that independent publishers and cartoonists are using instead. Although I understand a lot of the reasons for this (mainly financial), it's a sad state of affairs. Even Palookaville has gone to the fancy HC book format now.

Not only does this means that readers have to wait a hell of a lot longer to read something by their favourite creators, but I think it's a detriment to the cartoonists as well, as they don't get any feedback on their work until it is complete and this can take years. It's very hard to work on a project for years at a time in a vacuum - it's hard to keep your motivation up.

All this to say, there are a handful of honest to goodness indie comics being produced, and the following three are real standouts.

Lose #3
Written and Drawn by Michael DeForge
Published by Koyama Press
32 pages, B&W, $5.00

You've seen this book about on a lot of top 10 lists, and there's a reason why - everything they say about this comic is true. It's completely mind-blowing.  Artistically and stylistically it will blow your mind (which I have to say - I'm getting used to with DeForge - he's just so good, and he's getting better all he time), but it's also terrific writing.

It's this strong storytelling that took me aback in particular. The main story is called "Dog 2070", and like many of DeForge's stories, it takes place in what looks like a dystopian future - oh and and the main characters are dogs who can fly.

The main character Stephen, has separated from his wife, has a boring office job, doesn't have a lot of friends, and has problems relating to his kids. DeForge has a real knack for dialogue, and the scenes are very insightful and smart. It's been said in a lot of articles - but yes, DeForge is only 24, and I kept thinking - how does he know what it's like to be middle-aged and unhappy with your lot in life, family-wise, work-wise? I certainly could not have written this at his age.

This book actually made me think a lot about the juxtaposition of text and artwork in comics. So many of the text panels are just really smart and well-written and could come from a traditional indie comic, movie or play - yet he contrasts the text with graphics that are seemingly at first, far removed from the content. It's actually made me think my own work to try to come up with images that are a little bit more original than what you'd expect, as the contrast is a really effective way to get at a third layer of messaging and theme.

Pope Hats #2
Written and Drawn by Ethan Rilly
Published by AdHouse Books
40 pages, B&W, $6.95

I really enjoyed Pope Hats #1, and Ethan Rilly for me seemed to come out of nowhere with it. I know since then, he took some time to work on a full-length graphic novel, but apparently it didn't work out the way he wanted it to - so he went back to Pope Hats.

I think all of that time spent cartooning was not for naught, as Pope Hats #2  seems head and shoulders stronger than the debut. It's a lovely multiple short-story anthology format in the vein of Neat Stuff of Eightball, with one artist trying out different stories, techniques and characters.

The main story "White Noise Machine" follows Frances (the same character introduced in Pope Hats #1), but also includes a few other shorter stories. I particularly liked "Laughter with Young Frances". It's just a one-pager, but kid strips are really hard to do well.

The only thing missing from this comic? A letters page! Buy this book! Rilly is a huge young talent.

Optic Nerve #12
Written and Drawn by Adrian Tomine
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
40 pages, Full Colour, $5.95

I've been a big fan of Tomine and Optic Nerve ever since the days when he put the comic out himself as a mini-comic. And although Tomine is not Canadian, Drawn & Quarterly is - so I'm counting this in my list OK?

Still, this issue really knocked me out. I think it's the first time that I've seen Tomine write a story that is not from the point of view of a young person. His characters seem to reflect the age group that he is currently a part of. Now there's nothing wrong with that, he's excellent at it and you should write what you know, but the main story in this book is a nice change of pace from the norm. Also, Tomine's artwork tends to be really tight - and these stories are much looser than his regular style. To me it shows a new confidence, and the outcome is really fresh.

"A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture" shows a middle-aged white guy who specializes in lawn maintenance going through a mid-life crisis by ignoring his family (a lovely, patient wife and has a loving cute kid), and focusing instead for years on weird plant art.

One of the things I liked about the story is that you can't really tell is the art is any good or not (since the art is 3D sculptures featuring live plants growing out of it and this is hard to capture in 2D comic form). When I first looked at the drawings of them I thought - that's brilliant. Then I thought - oh, but it could be really bad too. His wife thinks his work is brilliant, but no one else appreciates it. Again, it could be great or terrible - who knows? He could be a Van Gogh, or he could be a hack. No matter what, he probably should appreciate what he has though.

Also - a letters page! Yay! For me, reading comics growing up, I ALWAYS read the letters pages. They are mostly gone from comics now with a few exceptions (like Criminal and Powers), but I love it when an artist shows correspondence they've received and answer their mail in the letters pages (why not hand-letter it though Tomine? - that would make it perfect).

Thank you for not waiting to collect these in a hardcover Mr.Tomine!