Smash Pages Q&A: Carolyn Nowak’s ‘Girl Town’

The Ignatz Award-winning creator discusses her latest project from Top Shelf.

Carolyn Nowak might be known to many comics readers for her work drawing Lumberjanes, but she’s also the Ignatz Award-winning creator behind comics like Radishes and Diana’s Electric Tongue. Those two stories, plus two more, along with a brand new story, have been collected in the new book Girl Town, which was just released from Top Shelf.

My feelings to the stories were similar to when I read Nowak’s comic Girl Town years ago. It was a beautifully drawn and thoughtful tale of three women who “got kicked out of astronaut school for being too good-looking to be sent to space. Now we try to make a living raising beans and cabbages, cleaning houses and curating erotic zines about staying on Earth.” It’s a funny opening, but the story itself is strange in a different way. It’s complicated and fraught, about trying to understand the emotions someone else causes in us. About getting older and trying make sense of whether this feeling is love or lust, hate or loneliness, and complexity of relationships and friendship. Nowak half-jokingly described the book as “my twenties” and for those of us who survived those years, that description will resonate in so many ways.

Besides the Lumberjanes collections that Nowak drew, she also wrote and drew the new book Buffy the Vampire Slayer: New School Nightmare, but Girl Town is the work of a masterful artist who has found her voice. Nowak was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work.

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Top Shelf to collect ‘Belzebubs’ in February

The black-metal, family-oriented webcomic by JP Ahonen finds its way to English audiences next year.

Top Shelf Comix will collect popular webcomic/Facebook phenomenon Belzebubs into book form early next year.

Created by JP Ahonen, Belzebubs is a “trve kvlt mockumentary” that features the average, ordinary life of a black-metal band with kids named Lilith and Leviathan. You can see samples on their website.

It’s been published in Finnish, French, Spanish and (soon) Greek, with Top Shelf bringing it to English audiences in February. Becky Cloonan, a noted metalologist, will provide the intro. Check out the cover and some sample strips below.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Nate Powell on ‘Come Again’

Following his work on the ‘March’ trilogy, the National Book Award recipient discusses his most recent graphic novel, punk rock, politics, his influences and more.

Nate Powell is the only cartoonist to receive the National Book Award. In recent years he’s been busy drawing the March trilogy, and continues to educate and  talk about the book series, the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and John Lewis. Of course Powell had a long career in comics before March, beginning with self-published zines before moving onto a series of Eisner and Ignatz Award winning graphic novels including Swallow Me Whole, Tiny Giants and Any Empire.

Powell’s new book, his first solo graphic novel in many years, is Come Again. A story set at the end of the 1970’s, it’s about a commune that is fracturing, it’s about secrets, it’s about parents and children. At the heart of the book is a supernatural force, but as in the work of Ray Bradbury and others, the force isn’t a metaphor, but it plays a key but muted role in the story, preying on people in a way that is familiar and terrifying. Powell and I have been talking for years – since before he became famous, and we talked about this new book of his, punk and politics, trying to balance personal work like this with collaboration, and the political work – artistic and otherwise – that he’s come to see as so vital.

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Top Shelf brings ‘Supers’ to America this fall

Frédéric Maupomé and Dawid’s award-winning kids’ graphic novel arrives in November.

Top Shelf will publish an English version of the award-winning Supers by French creators Frédéric Maupomé and Dawid this November.

The winner of the 2016 ACBD Youth Prize, Supers is the story of three alien kids — Mat, Lili, and Benji — abandoned on Earth as they start school. Check out a preview below.

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Top Shelf announces ‘Surfside Girls’ sequel

Sam and Jade solve mysteries once again in a new volume from Kim Dwinell.

Top Shelf has announced a sequel to one of last year’s “perfect summer reads,” as our own Brigid Alverson called it. Surfside Girls (Book Two): The Mystery at the Old Rancho, finds best friends Sam and Jade tackling a two-hundred-year-old mystery to help one of the local ghosts.

“I’ve had so much fun this last year watching readers of all ages discover Sam and Jade’s world,” says author Kim Dwinell. “I packed Surfside Girls with Southern California sunshine, and I hope everyone enjoys spending time with it as much as I do. I’m absolutely stoked to show you what the girls get up to in Book Two!”

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Smash Pages Q&A: Peter Hoey + Maria Hoey on ‘Coin-Op Comics Anthology’

The sibling comics creators discuss their latest collection from Top Shelf Comix, their work on ‘Blab!’ and much more.

Peter and Maria Hoey are the siblings behind Coin-Op Studio. Their illustration and advertising work has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Time and many other publications. They’re masterful creators of inforgraphics and maps, animation and portraits, and oh yes, they also make comics. For more than 20 years they’ve been making comics together, first for the anthology Blab and then for their own series Coin-Op Comics.

Top Shelf has just published Coin-Op Comics Anthology 1997-2017. The book collects the first six issues of their comics series along with the short comics for Blab! and they represent one of the most inventive and dynamic collections of comics published in recent years. Every story the Hoeys make they set out to find a new way to tell the story, think of a different way for the page to look, another way to present information and reveal character. This collection in addition to a new issue of Coin-Op, #7, are out now and I asked them a few questions about the book and how they work.

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James Kochalka’s ‘Mechaboys’ coming from Top Shelf next year

Two teen boys build their own battle suit to fight bullies in a new graphic novel.

American Elf, Johnny Boo and SuperF*ckers creator (not to mention musician and the first official Cartoonist Laureate of the state of Vermont) James Kochalka returns in March with a new graphic novel from Top Shelf — Mechaboys. The story focuses on two teenagers who build their own battle suit after getting picked on by bullies.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tara O’Connor

The creator discusses an expanded edition of her ‘Roots’ comic from Top Shelf and her upcoming book from Oni Press, ‘The Altered History of Willow Sparks.’

Tara O’Connor’s Roots begins with her divorce as she falls into that fugue state familiar to many that accompanies the collapse of a relationship, moving back in with one’s parents and the very specific kind of depression that comes with those life-altering events. It also depicts how O’Connor pulled herself out of this, through work and starting a new project, and what happened when she traveled to Ireland to research her family history. The trip didn’t turn out the way she expected, and neither did the resulting book.

Roots was originally self-published a few years ago, but Top Shelf is now publishing a new, longer version of that story. In addition, O’Connor has The Altered History of Willow Sparks, a fictional graphic novel coming out from Oni Press early next year. Both are about changing one’s life and O’Connor sat down to talk about her work.

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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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