Smash Pages Q&A: Robin Ha

The creator of “Cook Korean!” talks about her latest graphic memoir, “Almost American Girl.”

Robin Ha’s graphic memoir Almost American Girl came out earlier this year, and it’s a stunning work that recounts not just her own childhood, but her mother’s life in South Korea and why they emigrated to the United States.

For those who knew Ha for her book Cook Korean! which began life as a cooking blog, to spend time with how she draws, with the ways that she plays with color and tone, is to understand just how good an artist and storyteller she is. And reading the two books together make it clear that she’s just begun to show what she’s capable of doing.

I reached out to Ha recently to talk about the book and her career, about trying to make projects that are very dissimilar from each other, and trying to focus on the emotion of the story.

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Can’t Wait for Wednesday: Slowly turning the faucet

DC Comics returned to (some) stores this week with a handful of comics, plus see what’s new in digital, OGNs and more.

And we are back, not with a bang, but with a whimper. We’re still several weeks away from Diamond and most of the comics industry returning to regular operations, but DC decided to break the model and bring back new comics in April, using two new distributors. Also, their new comics were available Tuesday, rather than Wednesday. Up is down, right is left … everything’s insane in this new world.

This feels more like a “beta” week for DC, too, who slowly dip their toes back in the water with their two new distribution partners. Thus, the new release list is very limited. But subsequent weeks should see more new comics from DC. And Diamond is targeting May 20 for their triumphant return, which should bring back even more comics from other publishers. The list of comics for that week is still being finalized, but you can see how it’s shaping up.

Anyway, let’s jump into what came out this week …

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jason Platt

The creator of “Mister & Me” discusses his latest graphic novel, his creative process, heist movies and more.

Jason Platt had been making the webcomic Mister & Me for years before he began making graphic novels. His second, Middle School Misadventures–Operation: Hat Heist is just out and is his best work yet.

When Newell’s favorite hat gets stolen at school, and then confiscated by the principal, he and other students stage an elaborate heist to take back, well, every hat the principal has confiscated over the years. Also, the plot hinges around the character’s love for The Captain, a science fiction TV show about a World War II bomber pilot thrown halfway across the galaxy.

Platt and I spoke recently about heist films, color, and trying to make each of his books completely different.

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‘Drama’ once again lands on the ALA’s ‘Most Challenged Books’ list

Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel continues its run on the yearly list of the most challenged/censored books.

The award-winning, best-selling graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier has yet again found its way onto the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books list. The ALA released the list of the most challenged/censored books of 2019 earlier this month.

Challenged for “LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against ‘family values/morals,’” Drama has appeared on the yearly list five times since it was published in 2012. This year it came in at No. 8, sandwiched between The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

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What Are You Reading? Starman, Mister Miracle, Poppy! and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has checked off their “to read” list lately.

This week the Smash Pages crew focused on longer bodies of work from a variety of decades, looking at comics from the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2010s. Have a look at what we’ve been reading, and let us know what’s been on your list in the comments.

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Support comics retailers by buying this ‘Love and Rockets’ shirt

Sport some Gilbert Hernandez artwork while helping out a good cause.

Fantagraphics is offering a new T-shirt to raise money for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, or Binc.

“Ripped straight from the pages of Love and Rockets Vol. IV #8,” the new shirt features artwork by Gilbert Hernandez:

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Smash Pages Q&A: Victor Martins

The cartoonist behind the most recent issue of “Ley Lines” discusses Virginia Woolf, the Hello Boyfriend comics collective, goats and more.

Victor Martins is the cartoonist behind the most recent issue of the Ley Lines anthology, a quarterly comic series where in each issue a cartoonist looks at a work of art. The result has been one of the very best comics projects of recent years, as each artist has yielded something distinct, not just from each other, but often it involves them trying a new approach in these “essayistic” comics.

In the new issue titled Cabra Cabra, Martins looks at Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, the story of a character who changes sex and lives for centuries, a character inspired by Woolf’s lover, the writer Vita Sackville-West. Martins re-read the novel and had a different response to it, and the resulting comic is a thoughtful look at the differences.

Martins is one quarter of the comics collective Hello Boyfriend, which has produced Doki Doki High and Archie Fancomics Digest. Martins has made a number of comics and minicomics, including You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of Me and Stay. We spoke recently about Virginia Woolf, trying to grapple with our feelings toward disturbing and problematic work, and prioritizing the emotional arc of a story.

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‘The Hard Tomorrow’ wins the L.A. Times Book Prize

Davis’ graphic novel about an activist couple takes home the prize in the “Graphic Novel/Comics” category.

The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis has won the L.A. Times Book Prize in the “Graphic Novel/Comics” category this year. The graphic novel was published by Drawn and Quarterly.

The Hard Tomorrow tells the harsh-yet-optimistic story of Hannah and Johnny, an activist couple trying to have a baby as they live in their truck while Johnny works on building them a house.

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Oni Press, DC, Binc unite to announce new fund for comics retailers

The Comicbook United Fund will provide one location to make contributions to support comic book shops and their employees.

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation, or Binc, has announced the launch of the Comicbook United Fund, a dedicated relief fund designed to provide financial assistance to comic shops and their employees. Both DC Comics and the Oni Press-Lion Forge Publishing Group joined them in the announcement, with both offering funds to the organization.

The idea isn’t new — last year, the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group ​teamed with Binc to create the “Forge Fund.” It provides ​monetary support for comic retailers and their employees during times of hardship, like during Hurricane Harvey. The company continues to donate 5% of proceeds from their titles to the fund, and so far have donated $100,000 to the Forge Fund, which is operated by Binc

“The comic industry has a long history of banding together to protect and promote the art form we all love. We hope that this incredible action from DC will inspire a new wave of generosity and support for the great number of individuals and shops struggling through these times,” said James Lucas Jones, President and Publisher of Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. “Comics is an expansive community that still feels like a close-knit family, and these efforts feel like we are helping family members.”

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