Scene by Scene with Josh and Dean DEBUT

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I’m excited and proud to announce the launch of SCENE BY SCENE WITH JOSH & DEAN, a new weekly podcast I’m co-hosting with Dean Haspiel.

This season we will be breaking down the 2003 film American Splendor, scene by scene (thus the title!), talking about Harvey Pekar, our collaborations with him, and the joys & challenges of being professional cartoonists.

I was inspired by the burgeoning movement of “minute-by-minute” podcasts to launch this show, and am so thrilled to have Dino as my co-host. We’ve been friends and comics colleagues since high school, and Dean is one of the most talented and entertaining human beings I know. The fact that he also worked for Harvey for a long time — AND was integral to the American Splendor movie happening — made it a no-brainer.

Harvey Pekar has been deceased now for almost ten years, and it’s time people started talking about him again. (After all, it’s impossible to imagine iconic TV shows “about nothing” like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm without the example of the original “ordinary life is pretty complex stuff” American Splendor.)

In the podcast Dean and I will analyze each scene of the movie in order, episode by episode, with analysis, humor, and inside information. We promise to reveal previously unexplored connections between the original American Splendor comics and the film’s construction, and Harvey’s life & career,

Just as importantly, each episode will also serve as a jumping-off point for talking about Dean’s and my own careers. Topics will include the nature of identity, truth in art, and the realm of memoir/autobiography.

We’re having a lot of fun doing the podcast, and I think it shows — the tone is very much in the spirit of our friendship, irreverent and playful. 

Guests on the podcast will include other former Pekar collaborators, as well as actors, filmmakers, and producers. 

And it all starts today! All you need to do to prepare is watch the movie again (or watch it with us, scene by scene!)…

Scene by Scene can be found on all major podcast platforms and distributors. To listen, visit SceneByScenePodcast.com or your favorite pod-catcher. The Scene by Scene website also features examples of our illustrations, comics samples from American Splendor and other places, process drawings, and a store.

So click here and join us as our story begins on Halloween evening in the year 1950

AS 1: 1950 — Our Story Begins
AS 1: 1950 — Our Story Begins

Josh / Hang Dai Etsy store

Comics, Plug, Work
Etsy

I’ve set up an Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/hangdai! To make available my various custom- and hand-made art, prints, and self-published publications!

Items available include original art, A.D.-related gicleé prints, my autobio travel book A Few Perfect Hours, select issues of my solo comix series The Vagabonds, and one-offs like Terms of Service and my exquisite corpse collaboration with Dean Haspiel, Because of You!

Talking about Dino, the Etsy store — Hang Dai — features both our work, with much more of Dino’s stuff to come…

Most items on the store come personalized, often accompanied by an original sketch. So start shopping!

Dean Haspiel's cosmic, circuitous, and kooky FEAR MY DEAR

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Fear My DearMy old buddy/Hang Dai Editions partner/former Keyhole co-conspirator Dean Haspiel has just released Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience (Z2 Comics) and you must buy it! Completely remastered from the webcomic that ran online on ACT-I-VATE, it’s a gorgeous square-bound objet d’art. Dino asked me to write the book’s introduction, and I was honored to oblige: see how many phrases I copped directly from Billy, Jane, et al…

Friends, folks, and jackasses:

You are in for a treat: Dean Haspiel at the height of his powers. It’s all here: Dino’s spectacular storytelling, his gorgeous, stylish brushstrokes—and his iconic creation Billy Dogma in a way we’ve never seen him before: rebooted, stripped-down to his purest essence.

The original Billy was a philosopher for the 1990s, sounding off in his own unique way about the vagaries of fame, neighborliness, and the functional necessity of women’s hips. There’s a great moment in Fear My Dear when Billy pauses in the midst of furious action. He pauses, and he… thinks! Before he acts! It’s a first for the character, and it sparks a metamorphosis: the square-jawed philosopher transforms into a scruffy desert prophet. Billy Dogma 2.0 is all about the heart—and the hard lesson that “you don’t get to love when you love like you love.”

The primary object of Billy’s love, of course, is the spectacularly bespectacled Jane Legit. And In “Immortal,” the red-soaked opening story, Billy and Jane’s “war of woo” is played out—disastrously—on the mean streets of Trip City. (Billy and Jane are reality stars without the mediating authority of television.) And all the inhabitants of Trip City, from the beat cops to the regulars over at Lucy’s Bar, tell the tale. One of the great pleasures of all Billy Dogma stories is the language. Billy has always had the gift of gab—Jane too—and here we discover that apparently everyone in Trip City talks in the same lingo: part hard-boiled slang, part beat poetry. Thus we learn about “indulging a ruse,” “a lonely monster sans purpose,” and “steeping in seasons of cosmic love.” Sometimes your only option is to laugh and scratch your head at Dino’s unfathomable brilliance, but there’s no doubt it rings a cryptic coda.

From “Immortal” we segue into the golden-accented tones of the title story, as Billy embarks on a vision quest to (literally) get his head on straight. I won’t spoil the details of his heroic journey, but what emerges is Billy’s “secret origin:” Who is he? Where does he come from? What’s the deal with that Berserk Gun? Bite the bullet and take the bait—all shall be revealed.

Hopefully, your eyes are sensitive to feelings, because Fear My Dear is beautiful, funny, and guaranteed to make you go, “Awww”! I love Dino’s Billy Dogma tales precisely because they’re so completely different from my own work—fantastic, imagistic, and preoccupied by the BIG QUESTIONS. And after reading Fear My Dear, I bet you’ll love them too.

Fear My Dear is Dino’s most ambitious work to date. Harder than the hardest heart attack, it will spark the napalm in your apocalypse. So, sally forth, reader—it’s as easy as hopscotch!

THE VAGABONDS #3 in the House!!

Comics, Work

The Vagabonds #3

The Vagabonds #3

A loooooong time ago, back before The Influencing Machine, before A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge—before Phoebe was even born—I had a solo comic book series called The Vagabonds (at that time published by Alternative Comics.) It took me three years to produce two issues, but at least it was a real thing—it existed. And now, a mere eight years after the last issue appeared, April will see the release of The Vagabonds #3! In partnership with Hang Dai Editions, I’ll be debuting The Vagabonds #3 next weekend at MoCCA Fest.

To be fair to myself, as I mentioned at the top, there were a few things that have happened since 2006 that slowed the release of this issue. In addition to the “births” of Phoebe, A.D., and The Influencing Machine, there was the Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan, which ended just last year.

But now The Vagabonds is back—and in full color. It’s really nice to have a place to collect assorted pieces of mine from the last few years, as well as have a venue for new work. This issue highlights my journalistic work over the past few years, including reportage on Hurricane Sandy, the Arab Spring, the education wars (with writer Adam Bessie), and the life of a “comics journalist.”

What with A.D. and The Influencing Machine, I’ve spent the last half-decade or so in the trade books arena, with publishers like Pantheon and  W.W. Norton. As wonderful as it has been to work with those major players, I really missed the world of alternative comic books and indy shows. That’s another reason why I’m so excited to be joining forces with Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner, and Gregory Benton at Hang Dai Editions.

What draws me to Hang Dai is the emphasis on creator-owned publications and personal interactions with readers. There was a great quote from an interview with the HDE guys that went like this: “You’ll get the books made by hand from the hands of their creators, which puts the ‘artist’ back in ‘comic arts’ and puts you, the reader, in a position to engage directly with creators.” I cut my teeth in this business through self-publishing, and it’s refreshing to go back to my DIY days.

As many know, my professional relationship with Dean goes back to Keyhole, the two-man anthology we produced in the mid-1990s. (We’ve actually been friends even longer than that—back to our high school days producing superhero comics!) So it’s awesome to join forces with Dino again; as well as with Gregory and Seth, who I’ve also known in the industry for quite a while. (Bleeding Cool did a nice little piece announcing my joining HDE right here.)

So come get a signed copy of The Vagabonds from me at MoCCA Fest. I’ll be at the Hang Dai table (F15/F16) on Sunday, April 6, all day long. The book is $5, and you get a free sketch in each copy you buy. (I’ll also have copies of The Vagabonds #1 & 2, and my other books, should you be looking for those.)

And I swear you won’t have to wait eight years for the next issue of The Vagabonds. In fact, I don’t think you’ll have to wait eight months—look for The Vagabonds #4 in September 2014 at SPX.

Tonight: Haspiel, Abel, Bell, and Sanderson discuss "Graphic Non-Novels" @ KGB

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GRAPHIC NOVELS AND NON-NOVELS
A reading/discussion/signing featuring Jessica Abel, Dean Haspiel (a.k.a. man_size ), and Gabrielle Bell. Moderated by comics historian Peter Sanderson.

In the first event presented jointly by NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the literary venue KGB Bar, a panel of comics writers and artists will discuss graphic novels and what American Splendor writer Harvey Pekar has called "graphic non-novels" — memoirs in the form of book-length comics. (Other examples include Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.)

What, precisely, is involved in writing and drawing autobiography, or autobiographically-influenced fiction, and how does that compare with writing/drawing stories that are entirely fictional? What are the special challenges of collaborating on work that straddles fiction and non-? How does one teach — and how can one learn — the art of the graphic non-novel?

Friday, March 6, 2009
7:00pm – 9:00pm
KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th Street, New York, NY

Shopdropping

Comics, Work

A segment on today’s “Brian Lehrer Show” about shopdropping (covertly placing one’s own merchandise on display in a store) reminded me of my own misadventures in this arena.

It was 1997 and I had just moved to San Francisco, to the Mission District. man_size  and I were still doing Keyhole, and I soon began frequenting a local shop called Al’s Comics. (I think it’s in a new location now.) Al’s was a cool store: old-style in the sense that it was a sole-proprietorship, but funky in its selection and fairly supportive of indy comics. However, seeing that they didn’t carry Keyhole, I screwed up my courage and approached Al. I don’t know if he was in a bad mood that day, didn’t want to deal with ordering the book from the distributor catalog, or what, but he turned me down cold. That really bummed me out!

So I decided that the only thing to do was to go into Al’s store with a discrete selection of Keyholes (I think we had done four issues at that point) and rack them in with the other indies. Sure, this was giving the comics away for free, but I was convinced that all Keyhole needed was exposure — our little two-man anthology of autobio travel stories, super-psychedelic romance, true stories of the business world, and quirky vignettes deserved a place alongside Sandman and the X-Men (and certainly Hate and Eightball). Once the book was in place, I was convinced that demand for more would force Al into ordering Keyhole via the traditional route.

Doing the deed, however, was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my adult life. Ironically, in order to give away my book for free, I had to channel all the skills of my prepubescent shoplifting days: the nonchalant entrance, the pretend perusal of the new comics rack, the eyeing of the store employees to make sure I wasn’t being watched. And then the moment of truth, when I whipped out the Keyholes and stuck them in with the other alt-comix. Whew! The flop-sweat was practically flying off me. Mission accomplished, I bought a random comic to further throw off suspicion (more free money for Al), and quick-marched out of there. Back home, I was quite proud of my little black-ops maneuver.

That is, until a few days later, when I went back to Al’s for my weekly comics. The man himself stopped me at the door. “Hey, Josh. We found a bunch of your books in the comic rack. Did you leave those there?” I was totally busted! Thankfully, though, instead of really being mad, Al was charmed by the whole thing. He ended up keeping the Keyholes and I think he even paid me for them, at a generous 60-40 split.

Shopdroppers of the world unite! Who says un-crime doesn’t pay?

This Thursday @ Broadway branch of the Queens Public Library

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  and I will be representing American Splendor at the Broadway branch of the QPL this Thursday. Host Michael Sherer will quiz us about working with writer Harvey Pekar on the series, and we’ll discuss the process of illustrating comics from script to finished product. The discussion will be accompanied by slides of comic art in various stages of completion, and a Q & A session will follow. Should be fun!

Thursday, August 24th at 6pm
The Broadway Community Library Auditorium
40-20 Broadway, Long Island City, NY.
[R or V to Steinway. Ride as close to the front of the train as possible. When you exit, just walk up the stairs closest to the front of the train. You’ll be on Steinway about half a block from where it intersects with Broadway. Walk up to Broadway, take a right, and the library is the building next to Rite-Aid.]

“Lionel’s Lament” Joins Serializer

Work

“Lionel’s Lament,” the ongoing experimental strip by myself and Dean Haspiel, is moving to Serializer.net. The groundbreaking subscriber web-comics site presents two simultaneous “Lionel” storylines — “Lionel AM” and “Lionel PM”. It’s available only on Serializer — tune in each Tuesday for the new episodes. What does the future hold for Lionel? Only time, myself, and Dean will tell…