Happy New Year, everyone! Yes, I know it's already the end of January. I am a little late. Time definitely moves quickly. Last year alone went out like a light --so many events but little time to reflect on them. I had lofty ambitions to write recaps right after every show I attended last year, but got distracted with something or other. So then I had this wonderful idea to write a lengthy year-in-review during the last waning hours of New Years Eve but I again got sidetracked by other things (actually I fell asleep.) Needless to say there were many reminders in the news in 2014 that good things can be few and far between in this life, so here I am FINALLY taking a moment to stop and celebrate the positive moments of 2014 that I'm thankful to have been apart of in some way. Also, this gives me the perfect opportunity to write mini-recaps of all the comic shows I've exhibited in the last year. So heads up, this is a long post.
The year started with Yam Books' publications Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat and Sky In Stereo #2 getting into a couple of Best of 2013 lists. Later in the year, Sky in Stereo would be nominated for an Ignatz Award for Best Comic Series at the Small Press Expo. It is an understatement to say that I am very honored and grateful to have worked with talented folks Renee French and Sacha Mardou, and just hearing the positive feedback about their books is very gratifying. If you haven't bought a copy of either books, go to the Yam Books shop, http://www.yambooks.com/shop. You won't be disappointed!
Fast Times in February
LA Zine Fest marked Yam Books' first show of the 2014 season. It was also my chance to finally visit my friends Vanessa Davis and Trevor Alixopulos who moved from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles, a city I haven't set foot in in over 20 years. Vanessa knows I like to pig out, so right after I arrived at LAX, we got some unforgettable Cuban food at Versailles in Culver City. We later met Trevor at the Dresden to drink sophisticated cocktails and to mark my first L.A. celebrity sighting when Vanessa bumped into Lily Tomlin and her partner in the bathroom. We saw the two say goodnight to the maitre d'. Later, we met up with one of my favorite cartoonists, Steven Weissman and his family at Fred 62. Chris Diaz, comics aficionado, Niners fan and awesome photographer also joined us for dinner and shakes, as we were surrounded by inspiring Wayne White paintings on the walls.
Tim Hensley and me. (Photo by chris anthony diaz and colored by graham willcox)
The next day, I headed with Chris to the Zine Fest back in Culver City at Helms Bakery where I gave a big hug to cartoonist and friend Tim Hensley. He was nice enough to hang out with me the entire day and sign copies of Ticket Stub at the Yam Books booth. We sold a few books even though the zine fest's main focus of course is mini-comics and zines which is always great. It was my chance to see artists and cartoonists who are now settled in LA such as Calvin Wong, Hellen Jo, David King, Rusty Jordan, Carrie McNinch (who I've been a huge fan of for a long time) and Esther Pearl Watson and Mark Todd who were the unofficial King and Queen of the show with their trailer pop-up shop. I got to see Jen Wang who was talking about a new show in LA that she was helping coordinate now known as Comic Art Los Angeles which launched just last month in December 2014. (Amazing how an idea comes to fruition so quickly and quite successfully as I've heard from all accounts) The highlight of the LA Zine Fest was its special guest Jaime Hernandez, who did a Q&A at the end of the show. He always has something inspiring to say and gives some great insight in the making of Love and Rockets.
That evening we went to dinner with Ben Catmull, Jason Leivian and Lisa Magnum at Canter's Deli, a place that I was excited about for a while. As we went inside, we saw Angelyne getting ready to drive off in her pink Corvette that had a huge Hello Kitty hobo bag on its dashboard. She waved at Trevor. I'm not the biggest sandwich fan, but I got teary-eyed and emotional while eating my Fairfax pastrami and corned beef sandwich. THEE best sandwich I have ever had. EVER. Imagine my emotions when I saw Mindy Kaling arrive and order the same sandwich. California Dreamin' indeed. The next day Vanessa and I woke up early and ate some pastries that we got from Canter's bakery the night before. I hopped on an early flight back home, thankful to have such wonderful and generous friends and missing their presence in the Bay Area.
March Reunions in the Burgh
I braved the winter weather in March, and made my triumphant return (ha!) to my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo (PIX Expo). I also had a piece in the Women in Comics show at ToonSeum as a part of comics historian, Trina Robbin's tour for her new book, Pretty in Ink. ToonSeum holds a special place in my heart. It is 1 of only 3 comics museums in the nation.
The one and only Rob Rogers
At the PIX Expo, I caught a snapshot of the Pittsburgh comics scene with cartoonists Jim Rugg, Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, Wayno, Rachel Masilamani, Jessica Heberle, Jim Pena, Frank Santoro and Bill Boichel, owner of one of the best comics shops Copacetic Comics. Imagine my excitement seeing award-winning editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers exhibiting at his own table at the show as well! He was patient with my fangirl hysterics and gladly signed a print for my mom and dad!
It's always great to go back to The Burgh. I get to hibernate in my childhood home where it's always relaxing and peaceful-- a great place to decompress and to do nothing really. This time around I felt a bit more anxious than usual though because I had plans to reconnect with old buddies from grade school and high school who I hadn't really seen since those times. My twentieth high school reunion was going to be held that May. I was in no way going to attend it, so it was great having these smaller reunions instead. Oh, and how can I forget the experiences with my dad as a trusty travel companion, dining at Eat-n-Park, driving through the windy roads of Glenshaw, having foot-long fish sandwiches at Sparky's Spot and watching random movies from my dad's "eclectic" DVD movie collection?!? To say that this trip conjured up so many emotions and nostalgic feelings is a complete understatement.
Francois Vigneault and Zack Soto, The founders of Linework NW
A New (Excellent) Show in Portland
In April, I traveled up north to Portland, Oregon to rep for both Yam Books and Koyama Press at the new and much anticipated Linework NW. This was its first year in a comics town that has been desperately trying to find a nice show to live up to the old Stumptown shows. Suffice it say, I think they found it in Linework NW. Kudos to Zack Soto and Francois Vigneault with help from Jason Leivian for putting it together. It's in a beautiful space, in a prime location and has an enthusiastic audience. I was on a Q&A panel with fellow micro-pressers Walker Mettling (Providence Comics Consortium) and Josh Burgraff (Future Shock.) The panel took place in the bar area of the venue which made the presentation all the more lively. It's always fun to see Portland comics pals. It's been about 10 years since my last visit, and I feel like everyone has grown up and has settled down a little, or maybe I'm just making that up. Well, whatever, you all look great, Portland pals! As usual it was a treat to team up with my buddy Lark Pien, tabling for both Yam Books and the ALL-POWERFUL Koyama Press! Boom! We were among good company, situated between Sparkplug Comic Books and the comics wunderkind and karaoke megastar Michael DeForge showing off the his Ant Colony collection. Last but not least, I cannot thank my beautiful hosts Michelle Overby and her two amazing daughters Rita and Maggie for taking care of me during that unseasonably warm Spring weekend. They let me stay with them, took me around their beautiful neighborhood and introduced me to the best coffee ever.
The End of Baby Times
During my stay with the Overby ladies, I was thinking about my own family a lot. It's hard traveling on your own and not have your two closest buddies next to you to experience everything. I started to question whether traveling to shows was really worth the separation from them. During the summer, I tried my best to focus on my son who would be graduating from preschool. Yea, I know, I know. It's not huge deal as high school or college graduations, but it's a major milestone for our family. When you only have one child, you know that every single memory/event is important and to be cherished because you know that you WILL NEVER GO THROUGH IT AGAIN (unless you accidentally get knocked up, sure, but let's move on.) It also marked the end of "babyhood" and the beginning of the kid growing up and becoming influenced by the "outside world." So I drew a comic about all that called "Beginning's End" for Mutha Magazine. It took about 6 months to complete it mainly because I was afraid to even start it. The idea came to me in November 2013 but I really didn't work on it until the Spring 2014 as half of the comic's events were happening. So it was very cathartic experience. The first two months/years of my son's birth were very intense time in my life (surprise, surprise) and drawing this comic about it brought back all of those emotions and fears, but I'm happy I got through it, and the comic maybe turned out okay? Anyway, you can read it at this link: http://muthamagazine.
Pinoy Komiks Anthology
Adam Passion, cartoonist and publisher based in Japan put together the Pinoy Komiks anthology, a beautiful, full-color survey of Indie Filipino and Filipino American cartoonists. I, along with artists such as Manix Abrera, Emiliana Kampilan, Steph Bravo, Martin Cendreda and the one and only Lynda Barry contributed a short story to this amazing book. My story documented my family's history of disco dancing, of course. Actually there's more to it than that, but you'll just have to read it yourself. Pinoy Komiks is available for sale in print and digital format. Proceeds of the anthology go to the Typhoon Haiyan relief effort. Buy it at: http://biguglyrobot.
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Renee French and Josh Frankel, F1 Racing forever!
The Last Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco
In October, I repped for Koyama Press and Yam Books at the Alternative Press Expo (APE). Renee French played special guest at the table, debuting the amazing Baby Bjornstrand. If you don't have that book, get it today! It's always fun hanging out with Renee. She was a real trooper, dealing with a crazy allergic reaction to a flu shot that formed a huge welt on her drawing arm. She managed to sign all her books though. I love her. The show itself was bittersweet because 2014 would mark the last year it would be in San Francisco as Comic Con International decided to stop running it. For decades, APE was the West Coast version of SPX. Everyone was excited about debuting their books there and seeing their friends, but in the last couple of years many cartoonists who usually exhibited lost interest because of the expensive table costs, low attendance, bad sales and the show's lack of focus. Comics is so much a part of San Francisco's history and to not have a comics show in this city is a downright shame. I sincerely hope someone can come up with a new amazing comics show that follows the same template as BCGF, Linework NW or TCAF.
Also in October, I joined Bay Area super star cartoonists Tessa Brunton, Ed Luce and Thien Pham in a lively comics reading and slideshow event for Litcrawl San Francisco where writers, artists and poets read/showcase their work at bars, cafes, bookstores, galleries and restaurants all around the Mission District. We read in front of a packed house at The Marsh theater space. I have done a few comics readings in my day but this was the first time I felt that all four readings flowed into each other quite seamlessly despite how diverse the stories were. Coincidentally, some of our readings required us to break into song. I did a rendition of Filipino standard "Dahil Sa'Yo", Thien sang Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" and Ed Luce did a nice Elvis rendition. Tessa played the tambourine (no she didn't.) It made for an unforgettable evening. Thanks to Angela and Vanessa who coordinated the event for the Graphic Narrative Project!
I Heart Seattle
One more show to go! Short Run Seattle! As much as I was ready for my convention season to be over, I was super excited to go to this show and to the city of Seattle because I have never been to either. I had heard only good things about Short Run from those who have attended in the past. Janice Headley, co-founder of Short Run, picked me up from the airport and, just like Vanessa in LA, knew I liked to pig out on food, so she took me straight to Katsu Burger so I can indulge in breaded chicken and nori fries heaven. (The nori fries had at least 8 different dipping sauces to choose from). Then we rolled our stuffed carcasses to the Fantagraphics Bookstore where there was an art show and reading. The first person we saw there was Ed Piskor who was on tour for his comic series, Hip Hop Family Tree and was one of the special guests of the party. The bookstore is really fun. It shares space with Georgetown Records. At the party, I was entangled in conversation with these ladies:
Fawn Gehweiler, Gabrielle Gamboa, Kelly Froh and Janelle Hessig
in the Fantagraphics Damaged Books Room/Makeshift V.I.P Lounge
in the Fantagraphics Damaged Books Room/Makeshift V.I.P Lounge
Short Run was set in this stately historic brick building called Washington Hall. It was packed to the gills and included some interesting panels and interactive animation installations. It was so great to reconnect with Seattle cartoonists like David Lasky and Megan Kelso. Megan and I talked about our kids, their schools and juggling all of that with comics-making. She debuted her new comic Cats in Service which is one of the best comics I've read in 2014. Get it here now: http://megangirlhero.blogspot.com/2014/11/cats-in-service-finished.html
Megan Kelso and John Porcellino, I bow to you!
I can't think of a better way to end the 2014 convention season for me. I came away more motivated than ever to work on my own comics seeing work from and talking with comics folk like Rob Kirby, Jason Martin, Robyn Jordan, Leo Lopez, Lisa Maslowe, Chris Cilla, Andrice Arp, Virginia Paine, Kristy Valenti, Jennifer Daydreamer, Aaron Mew, Kaz Strepezek, Greg Means and so many others! Thanks to MariNaomi and Yumi Sakugawa for driving me all around town and being my roomies. And again, a big thank you to Janice Headley who was nice enough to let me stay at her place. She is seriously one of the most generous, kind-hearted people ever! (She also has an amazing comics and art collection. Whoa!) And OH SEATTLE! I love this town! I love the people in it! Such beautiful neighborhoods and views! I didn't get the chance to take advantage of all the sights like eating at Pike's Market our going to the Seattle Museum of Flight, though we did keep passing the Space Needle every night, but I'll definitely come back with my family to check it all out!
When the Dust Settles
Oh, I forgot! Also at Short Run, I debuted my latest mini-comic "When the Dust Settles". It's a 60-page collection of comic strips that I made from 2011 to 2014 documenting ridiculous dads, well-meaning moms, frustrating sports teams, curious kids and mind-numbing reflective moments. It's funny but for the last couple of years I felt very unproductive with my own comics-making, and easily forgot all the comic strips I had been posting online in random places for years! It was nice to see all of them collected in one single mini-comic which is now available for your viewing enjoyment! You can buy a copy at the Yam Books shop: http://www.yambooks.com/
What's New in 2015
I feel very thankful for all the positive moments and proud of the accomplishments and collaborations through Yam Books in 2014, but I'm very anxious to start work on a bunch of new comics projects this year. One of the items on the agenda is to finally experience an official sophomore slump and finish my second graphic novel (the one I've been saying I'd finish for the past 4 years.) Well hopefully same time next year, it won't just be talk. Anyway, I thank all the people who have helped me this past year and continued to support Yam Books and the comics world in general! Here's to a healthy and happy 2015 for all of us!