Smash Pages Q&A: Gabrielle Bell

The creator of ‘Everything is Flammable’ and ‘The Voyeurs’ discusses her latest short story collection, ‘Inappropriate.’

Gabrielle Bell is one of our great cartoonists. In books like The Voyeurs, Truth is Fragmentary, Cecil and Jordan in New York, and in the hundreds of comics she’s made for print and online, she’s developed a style and approach to storytelling that is deceptively simple.

I don’t mean her linework, which is beautiful and deliberate, but the way she approaches story. One can read a few of the realistic stories she tells, and think that one understands her work, but then she crafts a story in that same style with that same tone and approach, which goes off in strange fantastic directions. Some of them are colorful, fantastic tales. Others loop back and force the characters and the readers to reconsider the opening scenes differently. It’s this way that she seems to effortlessly move from dirty realism to magical realism, always grounded in lived in details and psychology, which allow the reader to feel grounded even as the story spins off in any direction.

Bell’s new book Inappropriate is the first since the release of her acclaimed graphic memoir Everything is Flammable. In these short comics, some of which have seen print in The New Yorker, Spiralbound and elsewhere, Bell effortlessly shifts from the autobiographical to the fantastic, the personal to the strange. Recently she also got attention for her comic Utopia, which was posted during the pandemic. It’s always a joy to pick her brain and Gabrielle took some time out to chat about the book, how she works and thoughts during the pandemic.

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Sunday Comics | 2020, gnomes and Funky Winkerbean

Check out recent comics by Thom Zahler, Tom Kaczynski and more.

Here’s a round up of some of the best comics we’ve seen online recently. If we missed something, let us know in the comments below.

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Comics Lowdown: Can Disney stop cops from using the Punisher symbol?

Plus: News on Al Jaffe, Uncivilized Books, awards and more.

With police brutality once again in the public eye, many fans on social media have called out Disney/Marvel to put their litigious muscles to work and prevent cops from using the Punisher logo — a popular emblem with some members of law enforcement, despite the fact that Frank Castle is a criminal and a killer.

First, you can find some history of both the character and its popularity with police here. That piece’s writer, Brian Cronin, is not only a contributor to CBR, but also a lawyer, and he offers his thoughts on why he doesn’t think Disney would have much success in an article titled “There’s Not Much Marvel Can Do About Cops Using Punisher’s Logo.” Cronin writes:

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Berger Books to publish new edition of Romberger’s ‘Post York’

The 2012 project will be expanded into a graphic novel for the Dark Horse imprint.

Berger Books, the imprint started by former Vertigo chief Karen Berger at Dark Horse, will publish an “innovative expansion” of James Romberger’s Post York in September.

Post York was originally published by Uncivilized Books in 2012, Romberger said the idea for the story came to him when he attended Columbia University. “I wrote a few stories and made some paintings and prints, all attempts to depict what New York City would look like after the ice caps melt and the water finds its level,” Romberger told Alex Dueben back in 2012. “It seemed to me that we would become more like Venice. However, as we can see from Hurricane Sandy, most of New York is not built to withstand the strain that so much water would put on it, the old tenements would collapse and the infrastructure would fail. But, any survivors left in the city would find ways to deal with it as best they could — New Yorkers are hardy and tenacious.”

He teamed up with his son, Crosby, on the project; his son recorded a song for it that was included in the original publication as a flexidisc.

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Smash Pages Q&A: James Romberger

James Romberger has had a long career as a comics artist, writer and fine artist. His books like 7 Miles a Second and The Late Child have been published by Fantagraphics and Vertigo, his comics have appeared in the anthologies World War 3 Illustrated and MOME, his paintings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum. Last year he wrote the book Steranko: The Self-Created Man, the definitive book about the cartoonist and his work, which he published through Ground Zero Books.

Romberger has two new comics on the stands. Now #7, the newest volume of the Fantagraphics anthology, features a four page comic written and drawn by Romberger. In addition, Uncivilized has just published For Real #1 by Romberger, which consists of “The Oven,” a 20 page comic, and “The Real Thing,” a 10 page essay. Both are about the life and work of Jack Kirby, his time as a soldier in World War II, his cancer diagnosis and treatment later in life, the ways he thoughts about and depicted violence. It’s some of Romberger’s very best work and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his many projects.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Kelsey Wroten

The illustrator and cartoonist discusses her debut graphic novel, ‘Cannonball,’ from Uncivilized Books.

Kelsey Wroten is an illustrator and cartoonist who’s made an impact with her comics like Crimes and her illustrations, which seemed to have appeared almost everywhere in the past few years, from The New Yorker to Vice to Lucky Peach and elsewhere.

Her debut graphic novel is Cannonball, which was just released by Uncivilized Press. The book is the story of Caroline Bertram, a young writer who struggles with failure and goes on to have an even greater struggle with success. The book is more than simply a great character study, but throughout the book, Wroten is also illustrating in very different styles, the stories that Caroline is writing. In the final chapter of the book the story comes to a head not through text, but by utilizing the art as the real world and the world of her novel come crashing together in a striking way.

It’s a brilliant debut, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Wroten about writing complicated characters, structure, and color – as Avril Lavigne played in the background.

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Comics Lowdown: RIP Monkey Punch, Kazuo Koike

Plus: Bill Mantlo in need, halfway through ‘Saga,’ awards and more.

The manga community has lost two legends in April, as both Lupin III creator Monkey Punch and Lone Wolf & Cub co-creator Kazuo Koike have passed away. Both men died from pneumonia six days apart, and were once considered rivals when their respective manga ran in Weekly Manga Action magazine. They also worked together on the Secretary Bird manga mini-series that ran in the magazine in 1970.

Monkey Punch, whose real name was Kazuhito Kato, was 81 when he passed away. His most famous creation, Lupin III, started as a manga and was later adapted into six animated television series, eight animated feature films, two live-action feature films, two musicals and several video games. He passed away April 11.

In addition to Lone Wolf & Cub, Koike is also known for such titles as Lady Snowblood, Crying Freeman, Samurai Executioner and many other popular series. His work influenced many American creators, including Frank Miller, who drew covers for First Comics’ publication of the series. Koike also worked on a few western series, including a Hulk manga and an issue of X-Men Unlimited. He passed away April 17 at the age of 82.

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‘Ginseng Roots’ subscription box now available to preorder

Buy a subscription to Craig Thompson’s first serialized comic and receive a box for storing all 12 issues.

Craig Thompson’s first serialized comic book series arrives this summer, a 12-issue series called Ginseng Roots that tells the story of he and his brother weeding and harvesting ginseng root in Wisconsin when they were kids.

If you’re already committed to picking up all 12-issues, then the book’s publisher, Uncivilized Books, has a deal for you. Subscribe today, and you’ll receive a collectible box to store all 12 issues.

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Craig Thompson gears up for his first serialized comic

‘Ginseng Roots’ will explore Thompson’s childhood ‘weeding and harvesting ginseng’ in order to buy comic books.

Craig Thompson is best known for his long-form graphic novels, including Blankets, Habibi and other titles that regularly appear on year-end “best of” lists. But now the creator is turning his attention to “the form of the medium that imprinted itself on me and my little brother, Phil, as children.”

Coming next spring from Uncivilized Books is Ginseng Roots, a bi-monthly comic book about the creator and his brother growing up in Wisconsin.

“For a decade of our childhood, Phil and I toiled in Wisconsin farms,” Thompson wrote on his blog. “Weeding and harvesting GINSENG—an exotic medicinal herb that fetched huge profits in China—funded our youthful obsession with comic books. Comics in turn, allowed us to escape our rural, working class trappings.”

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