16 June 2010

I misplaced my transmogrifier

Listening to: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, "Moon Hits the Mirrorball." I'll be honest, I'm not sure I love this music -- it's way too techno-y for me -- but I absolutely love the band name and so must soldier on, looking for a track I can push just to be able to say "totally enormous extinct dinosaurs" out loud. I mean, look at this awesome logo on his MySpace! Totally enormous extinct dinosaurs sums up a lot about my life...

One of the things I can't help cruising through while traveling is comic book stores, especially in foreign countries. I rarely buy anything because lugging around books is the quickest way to stuff your luggage, but when you're at the oldest comic book store in Europe you just have to get something right? While waiting for our Amsterdam bike tour to start, I hopped into Lambiek next door and while I didn't have too much time to browse, I did pick up some (small and durable) items that caught my eye: Chris Staros' Yearbook Stories 1976-1978 and Ryan Claytor's And Then One Day #6. I was unfamiliar with their works but I've been really into autobiography recently and these two both fit the bill.

I enjoyed both but were more curious about the authors. Ripped away from my beloved Internet for most of my trip, I've only been able to launch a full scale web search on them now. Mr. Staros has quite the Wikipedia. Founder of independent graphic novel publisher Top Shelf Comix, president of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, as well as authoring his own work. His yearbook stories were pretty straightforward and conventional, just slices of life with illustrations. Not bad but some of the interviews I found online with him piqued my interest a little more, especially as it relates to how he started in the industry and what it's like being an independent publisher.

"Our struggle to keep an independent press alive is an everyday fight. It is financially costly for a publisher trying to discover new cartoonists and publish them with smaller quantities of books. We publish books we absolutely love. Some are critical darlings that are well received but sometimes they are not well sold. The key is to continue fighting."
-Comic Book Bin (2007)-
Ryan Claytor's book was different than anything I'd seen before. A chubby volume of talking heads -- friends, acquaintances, exes, professors -- all commenting on Ryan. Why this format? Well, I'll let him tell it:
"You see, I'm getting my masters of fine art right now, and I've been doing some research on autobiography. I ran across a theory which states that autobiography is no more truthful or valid than fiction. Which got me thinking, what would make autobiography any more truthful or valid than it already is? Because essentially an autobiography is just one person's subjective opinion of him or herself."
-And Then One Day #6-
Claytor's methodology was neat too. He came up with a set of twenty or so questions, put them in a box, and then gave each interviewee the cards along with a tape recorder in an isolated room. He hoped this would inject a little more objectivity into autobiography. Neat right? Pick up the book to see the results.

Turns out Ryan is teaching at Michigan State now, near my alma mater, and I'm enjoying following his exploits at his blog, Elephant Eater. He went on summer tour in 2007 and is about to launch another one this year. I'm hoping to catch Claytor at Comic Con this year. What is really awesome is that Ryan provides a lot of tips and insight into being a small press distributor. If you need to hustle, he proves that if you put in the heart you can make it happen. Or something inspirational like that.

Next on the must get list is Jeffrey Brown, whom I've never read but have seen all over the place. This analysis of his work is a great read and I must admit, I generally passed over Brown's work in stores precisely because of the following:
"What is it about [Brown's] work that endears it to so many? His art is loose, sketchy and inconsistent. At first glance, it seems almost amateurish. Certainly, anyone who is already a fan of his work knows this is not the case, but at initial introduction, it’s easy to make that quick judgment."
-NYC Graphic-