Smash Pages Q&A: Kim Dwinell on ‘Surfside Girls’

The animator discusses her first graphic novel, surfing, the ocean and more.

Kim Dwinell has been teaching and working in animation for years, but this years she’s written and drawn her first graphic novel, Surfside Girls, Book One: The Secret of Danger Point. The book, which is out now from Top Shelf, is a beautifully painted young adult mystery/adventure story. Two 12-year-olds, Samantha and Jade, live in the sleepy beach town of Surfside and become involved in s series of strange occurrences that include the titular Danger Point, ghosts, the town’s history, and a group of boys who find what they think is a baby pterodactyl.

There’s a timeless quality to the adventure, but Dwinell is also threading other more complicated stories in the background, stories of the town, of the history of California, and the result is a book that manages to capture some of that spirit and energy found in Scooby Doo and a lot of other old mystery stories that so many of us fell in love with as kids, and establishing a rich setting. This is Dwinell’s debut book, but the way she uses design and layout throughout show just how much she understands about how comics work. Summer is over, but I reached out to Dwinell to talk about the book, her background in animation, and the ocean.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Shannon Wheeler on ‘Sh*t My President Says’

Wheeler discusses his collection of illustrations of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Shannon Wheeler has been drawing cartoons that are sardonic, sarcastic, political, angry but also strange and funny with its own unique viewpoint for a long time. Like many people I first got to know his work with Too Much Coffee Man. In the years since then Wheeler has drawn books like God is Disappointed in You, written by Mark Russell, and Oil and Water, written by Steve Duin. He’s also continued to work as a cartoonist contributing to The New Yorker and other publications.

In recent months though he’s been working on a strange project, illustrating Donald Trump’s tweets. The result is a book just out from Top Shelf, Sh*t My President Says. Since the book went to press, though, Wheeler hasn’t stopped. He’s already made a zine supplement and continues to post the comics on – where else – his Twitter feed. We spoke about how he approaches Donald Trump and why the project wasn’t just parody.

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Moore, O’Neill to conclude ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ with ‘The Tempest’

Six-issue series to serve as conclusion to Moore and O’Neill’s “equally legendary comic-book careers.”

At Comic-Con International, Top Shelf Comix and Knockabout announced the final edition of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen epic. The last chapter featuring their crazy, cross-continuity adventures will be titled, appropriately, The Tempest. Per Top Shelf, it will also conclude both gentleman’s comics careers.

From the press release:

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Comics Lowdown: Comic Con case heads to court showdown

Plus: classic Archie returns, Tom King, Black Panther and more.

Battle of the Cons: The court case between Comic-Con International (which runs the San Diego comic con) and Salt Lake Comic Con over CCI’s claim that it owns the term “comic con” moves into a crucial stage this week with two days of depositions today and tomorrow, followed by a settlement hearing before a judge on Thursday. That hearing will determine whether it all ends there or the case will go to trial in October. CCI owns the trademark to “comic-con” with a hyphen but the case is murkier for the unhyphenated version; Salt Lake Comic Con was allowed to trademark its name last year.

A panel from World of Wakanda

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Shannon Wheeler to live-draw Trump’s live tweets of Comey testimony

Follow the hashtag #shitmypresidentsays to see, well, what the president has to say in illustrated form.

Shannon Wheeler took one for the team and read all 30,000 of Donald Trump’s Tweets as research for his new book, Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump. And on Thursday, he will rise to the occasion again: Trump has threatened to live-Tweet his reactions to former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before Congress, and if he does, Wheeler will live-draw the live Tweets—”bringing vital new insight to these important contributions to American presidential history,” according to Chris Staros, publisher and editor of Top Shelf Productions.

To catch this first draft of history as it unfolds, follow @muchcoffee (Wheeler’s Twitter) or the hashtag #shitmypresidentsays.

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Shannon Wheeler goes there with ‘Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump’

Top Shelf announced this week a new book by Shannon Wheeler, co-creator of God is Disappointed in You and Apocrypha Now, is tackling a topic a little less holy for his next book — Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump.

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‘Dapper Men’ books land at Top Shelf

Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s whimsical tale gets a deluxe edition next summer and a sequel in 2018.

Return of the Dapper Men and its planned sequels have found a new home at Top Shelf Productions. Announced at the New York Comic-Con this past weekend, the IDW imprint will release a deluxe edition of the book next summer.

Return of the Dapper Men, by Jim McCann and Janet Lee, was originally published by Archaia in 2010, and McCann and Lee acquired the rights from them to the book in 2014. The whimsical story of a boy, a robot girl and the Dapper Man known as 41 won the Eisner Award for “Best Graphic Album: New” (tying with Daniel Clowes’ Wilson) in 2011.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Alex Robinson on Top Shelf’s ‘Our Expanding Universe’

cvrThis week marks the release of Alex Robinson’s Our Expanding Universe. The master cartoonist behind Box Office Poison, Tricked, and Too Cool to Be Forgottenis back! Our Expanding Universe, the new graphic novel from Alex Robinson, is available now. Click here for a preview by Top Shelf, to mark the release I interviewed him.

Tim O’Shea: Box Office Poison is a classic; that being said do you ever tire of people measuring your work against BOP.

Alex Robinson: I’ve come to accept the fact that if anything is going to be on my tombstone it will be that book. Of course it’s a mixed bag having your oldest work be the one people are most familiar with but I’m going with the more positive interpretation that I’m fortunate that something I created stuck a chord with readers.

In many ways it feels like Box Office Poison was done by a different guy, which, in a way, it was since it’s been 15 years since I completed it. When I look at it now one thing I appreciate is my enthusiasm. It was like I said “I finally got a comic book of my very own and this might be my only shot at it so I’m going to squeeze in as much stuff and try as many storytelling tricks as I can.” I’m amazed at the ambitiousness of it but I guess that’s the nature of being young.

What inspired the development of Our Expanding Universe?

The new book is about three guys and how various adult concerns–whether to have children, being in long term relationships (or being an adult who is very much not in a relationship), etc–affect their friendship. It’s not autobiography but it’s definitely inspired by events in my own life, much in the same way Box Office Poison was inspired by stuff I was going through when I was in my 20s.

Prior to this I’d been working on a few projects that, for various reasons, didn’t work out so my confidence was a little rattled. I was really wrestling with what to do next–I even briefly entertained the idea of putting comics aside and writing a proper novel–when the story pretty much came to me fully formed. I remember because I was walking my dog and rushed home to write down the ideas before they disappeared into the ether.

Would you say dialogue is your greatest storytelling asset or is it something else?

It’s definitely one of the stronger tools in my box of comics tricks. I always say I think of myself as a writer who draws, as opposed to an artist who writes and characterization tends to drive the story (as it does in real life, I think). It’s something I’ve really been struggling with because the stuff I like to write–relationships, the give and take of conversation and so on–isn’t neccessarily the stuff I like to draw. If I had my druthers I’d be drawing stuff like my Lower Regions book: pretty lady barbarian fighting monsters, but when I’ve tried writing fantasy stories it’s never worked.

There are definitely some sections of the new book where I tried to accommodate both halves of my brain. I’m toying with the idea of radically our expanchanging my working method and going more “Marvel” style–plotting and drawing the book before I do the dialogue. We’ll see if I have the guts to go through with it or if the results are any good. Would a book not driven by dialogue still have that patented “Alex Robinson feeling?”

Who designed the great cover?

I kicked around some ideas with Chris Ross at Top Shelf. I think I gave him a crude rendering of what I had in mind and he spun it into gold. He did a great job with this and the new cover to Box Office Poison.

full uivDid you ever consider doing this book in full color?

It hadn’t really occurred to me, since I’ve always worked in black and white but you’re actually the second person to ask me that which makes me wonder if there’s been a shift in the industry. In olden times the economics made it pretty much impossible to do an indy color book but that seems to have changed. I can see I’m out of step with today’s comics industry–I still do all my books in old fashioned pen and ink on paper and I think in terms of graphic novels as opposed to the web comics the kids love. If it helps the next story I’m working on would be well-suited to color so maybe I’ll finally make the transition.

I’m not a good colorist but I do love seeing my stuff in color, particularly on a computer screen.

Seeing as you want to draw different material would you ever consider collaborating with someone else?

I’ve collaborated on short stories, usually with someone else writing and me drawing, but the idea of a more serious, long term commitment hasn’t really come up. For one thing, the money in comics is so bad that the idea of splitting what little you do get with someone becomes a practical concern. I also think I might just be too controlling and selfish to really make it viable. I think one of the big appeals of working in the comics medium, especially when I first started, was that one person really could do everything if they wanted or needed to. You could tell the story you wanted to tell and explore ideas you wanted to examine without having to run it by some boss. But who knows, if the right offer came along I would consider it.