16 September, 2005

Colin Clary Interview

Colin ClaryColin Clary is a Burlington, Vermont musician who performs with The Smittens, Colin Clary & The Magogs, Let's Whisper, and Part-Time Losers. Part-Time Losers has available for MP3 download a startingly beautiful pop song called Sapphire, and I recommend you download it and listen to see what a gift the man has for music. There's lots of other great music to be found on the North of January record label's site, as well. Investigate, after you read this interview.

A few years ago, Colin recorded a split CD that alternated tracks with James Kochalka, and he frequently plays with James Kochalka Superstar. This week he took the time to share his thoughts with KOCHALKAHOLIC! about Kochalka, music, and his hometown of Burlington, Vermont.

Poking around online, it looks like you've done a lot more music than I knew about. Tell me how you became interested in music.

I think I've always been interested in music. My mom had a small but good record collection that we were allowed to play with when I was little and I think that led to eventually buying my own records. I remember wanting to play stand up bass or tuba when I was really young, and too small to even think of holding or carrying either -- but at some point I started singing in school. For a while it was chorus and the Essex children's choir, and things like that. I didn't start writing songs until I was in high school and towards the end of high school I finally got into my first band. Starting bands is fun.

How did you meet James Kochalka?

I was thinking about this the other day and I've come to think that I'm not sure if I even remember! I think I probably introduced myself because I was a fan and he was my waiter [in his former job] at the Peking Duck House. In the early '90s I saw [early Kochalka band] Jazzin' Hell perform and I bought their seven-inch single "Rainbow Love/Egg Hunt," which I used to play at home in my bedroom. My dad thought it was weird. At some point the Burlington Free Press also did a story on 'zines and it featured a zine I did along with something by James and also Jason Cooley's comic Skoolbus. I forget what order things happened in, but James is so approachable that I imagine I said hello and struck up a conversation and over the years we just got to know each other a little better.

Burlington's a small town, so folks who've been around for awhile tend to eventually get to know each other. At one point we lived on the same street, Buell Street, and I would sometimes run into him on the street. For the record, my folks are Kochalka fans these days. And they used to point him out to people they would be dining at the Duck House and say hello even when I wasn't around.

Tell me about the genesis of the split CD you and James released.

The genesis? Well, I think James was looking for new folks to record with to get some of his ideas down he knew that I was getting a lot of recording done with my then roommate David Zacharis, so he naturally suggested or asked if he could come over sometime and record some songs. It turned into an almost weekly thing that eventually spawned tracks for both the split disc and the Hot Chocolate Superstar downloadable album.

He would basically come over and have a number of ideas and whatever seemed to work best ended up being what we would do. I would basically play chords on guitar til it sounded right and then we'd track guitar and then James's vocals and sometimes extra stuff to make 'em fancy and fun. So it was a three-way team effort between David engineering the sessions, me playing instruments, and James being James! David runs Dangerfive and suggested the split, so we used some of the songs we'd recorded with James and some of my songs and alternated the tracks to make a good flow.

Tell me about your relationship with James Kochalka Superstar, the band.

It's a strange situation because I play shows with James sometimes when his proper full band can't make it, but I am not actually officially in the band. In those instances I get into the "band" by answering the phone and saying yes whenever James calls. It's also how we do most of our recording these days -- James will call me at work and see if I can stop by on the way home to record something and I drop by with my guitar and we put the song together and record it that day -- sometimes I get a preview over the phone first. I did play on that first JKS album only one song -- the live cut towards the end -- I was playing bass that day. And I have played both bass and guitar to fill with the band in a pinch, sometimes, but at this point I'm more like an indiepop subcontractor!

When I had to play bass, Jason Cooley taught me all the parts. In the post-Pistol era, I feel like he's the heart of the band, but also that Creston and Eric are good foils for both James and Cooley. They, the whole band, are a rowdy rock machine! I'm honored to have played with them. A lot of folks have played with James, though. It's kind of like a Burlington rock rite of passage to play with James Kochalka.

Are you intimidated at all, when you play with the band?

Well, I think the most intimidating factor is the amount of songs you have to learn and know in order to be ready for any given show! James isn't intimidating -- he's very welcoming and awesome -- but he does make fun of my rhythm. The whole band is very laidback and easy to get along with. If there's any intimidation it comes from inside, from not wanting to mess up or let down the fans of James's songs. I don't wanna be the guy who doesn't know a particular song -- I wanna be ready to go with whatever James wants to play!

What's your favourite song to perform live?

I love to play the song "Beat Down in the Shower" and "Chooglin'" and "Quick Stop Parking Lot" and "Woodglue" quite a bit. They are all awesome in different ways. As an audience member, I love "The Mummy's on the Loose," because of the moves -- and I like "Monkey versus Robot" especially because I enjoy James's improvised variations during his monologue -- like if he says "dot the landscape" or "hulking wrecks" and sometimes only one or two words change, but I smile as I watch him choose what to say.

What do you think sets the band apart from other musical acts?

Well, they are more like a family, and they have scads of awesome songs from which to draw from for their lives shows. So in terms of potential, they are pretty much unlimited. What sets them apart is probably the Kochalka factor -- he's their un-secret weapon! And James is a good dancer on stage. Versatility, that's another good quality.

Tell me why you'd like to see Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly released.

Because I want to hear it and hold the final product in my hands and play it loud while I look through the booklet! And because the band worked really hard on the album and went through all this trouble to negotiate and sign with a label and now their album is just sitting there and not coming out and instead they put out a hits package? That's a short-sighted approach. Kochalka's like a franchise and it seems to me that any label would be able to do better with his records if they actually spent some time marketing them in the right way! I just want to see his band happy. I want them to have their album come out while they still feel like playing those songs and for them to make a new record and for it to come out reasonably quickly. All this waiting around kinda kills the excitement and motivation and momentum and it's bad for the spirit. Besides, instant gratification is more fun and exciting -- like a daily strip, for example -- why should the record be held up?

It's not like Ryko is working to build momentum other than to be frustrating and wait for James's fans to complain loud enough so they can use that as a promotional angle?

Whatever -- there was a time when Britney and Justin were the hot headline of the day -- and who had an album with a song that dealt with them -- James Kochalka, that's who! Man! He writes things that are timely and ageless and the folks at his label don't listen to the songs enough to know how to market James as anything other than a novelty act and I think that's really sad because James has a knack for catchy melody and wordplay that gets overlooked by casual dismissalists -- I don't know if that's a word, but you know.

Also, I love the song "touch a tiger" - that's a total hit song! I don't even know if it's on the record or not, but it's one of my other faves I forgot to mention earlier.

Tell me what's cool about the Burlington area.

First and foremost, it's the people. There are tons of working artists and musicians and filmmakers and writers -- it's a supportive environment for craft-honing and people are more likely to be encouraging than competitive. Plus I love the spring and the fall the most!

It's easy to get out of Burlington and be in the country, and it's fun to walk down one of the main streets and be likely to run into someone you know. It's definitely a community. People ask me sometimes if Burlington is like how James draws it. I think it is. It's a whimsical town. We don't get all the good new movies, though.

Most folks here are open-minded and nice and laid back. It feels safe here. It feels like home here. Most people do their own thing and share it with others. We have barbeques and parties and art opening and shows where everyone goes and you can feel like part of an us and have a sense of pride that you like your town.

Can you talk a little about James's comics, any thoughts on those?

Well, I am a fan of his books for sure! My favorites are Quit Your Job and The Sketchbook Diaries, but I also really like Fantastic butterflies. Sometimes the diaries drives folks crazy around here -- people sometimes check to see if they made it into a strip. I think I learned a long time ago that there is no rhyme or reason to it -- even if you spend all day with James and think you were hilarious, well, that might not be what he draws -- maybe he draws a leaf or anything -- this is just how it is. I have lately come to the thinking that if you think a particular moment is interesting enough you should make note of it yourself and not wait or hope that someone else noticed the same moment.

Of course, I'm spoiled and also honored to have been drawn by James. That said, from a fan's perspective, I love how the comics are a good compliment to the person. Amy is one of my favorite characters and I also really like her as a person. Same with Eli and James. I like when Spandy thinks and I like when superheroes get wasted on weird gunk!

As far as philosophically, well, I tend to find James books very rewarding and they tend to re-affirm things that strike me as pretty true sometimes. It's fun to think of any given moment as a diary strip -- a slice of awesome or whimsy -- a moment you want to capture and remember and appreciate. One thing I've probably learned from James --and incorporated into my own life -- is that you should try to do something awesome every day! James would probably phrase it like this, though:

You've got to do something awesome every day/you've got to do something awesome just like James K!

A lot of what one learns is that anything could become the thing that makes you appreciate your day. You just have to notice it when it happens, so I find that one can learn to be open to the possibility of something awesome happening at anytime if you allow yourself to take a step back for a second and look around at your surroundings and what's happening.

Sometimes an easy way to learn how to do this is to watch someone else in action. To see how James translates a whole day into one strip -- it makes you aware of moments as each their own thing. It could be a taste or a smell or even a bump on the head -- it's life in an instant.

I like that when James uses the stamp of Kochalka Quality that I know he has given his seal of approval. He has high quality control standards -- I've seen him check out a print job -- he can be brutal and critical if something's not done right!

I like seeing my town and my friends the way that James draws them. It makes me feel like we live in a magical spot!

Colin Clary's new CD "Sweater Weather or Not, These are the
Songs I Got" is available Asaurus Records. Look for the new Smittens album "A Little Revolution" coming in two weeks from North of January Records, where you can also purchase CDs of the James Kochalka Superstar rock opera "Carrot Boy The Beautiful."

"Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly" Petition Nears 200 Signatures

Come on, at 174 we could push this thing over 200 signatures today and be that much closer to getting Rykodisc to release James Kochalka's Superstar's new album. Head over to the petition and sign your name now!

Nashville City Paper Looks at The Cute Manifesto

Wil Moss of The Nashville City Paper looks at The Cute Manifesto and other recent graphic novel releases in his column today. Moss generally likes TCM:

"Kochalka’s got enough of a different worldview and endearing cartooning style to make it all interesting."

Click on over for the rest of the review, plus Moss's looks at Jordan Crane's beautiful fantasy The Clouds Above, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's Fell #1, and other notable recent comics and graphic novels.

15 September, 2005

Neilalien Commentary and Links to Diamond Stories

Considering how detrimental an effect comics monopoly distributor Diamond's new "Benchmark" policies could have had on early work by James Kochalka (and many other artcomix creators) ever getting to readers, I want to link to Neilalien's comments on (and links to other stories about) this egregious, wrong-headed policy.

My biggest problem with the "Benchmark Policy" is the apparent fact that small-press publishers and self-publishers can have their work accepted into the Diamond Previews catalog (essentially the monthly guide to upcoming comics, like it or not -- and I personally fucking hate it), interested readers can tell their retailer they want to order a given work -- and possibly even prepay or give them a deposit for it -- and if the "Benchmark" isn't met, the item may very well likely never ship from Diamond.

I can't imagine a more destructive policy for non-superhero comics; under this policy, every lousy John Byrne/Geoff Johns/Jeph Loeb piece of corporate, factory-produced swill will ship without fail (if not always strictly on time, as is the wont of the "Big Two"), but some smaller titles and works by new creators will get orders and yet never end up in the hands of readers who want them, are willing to pay for them, and maybe already have.

How many new and recent readers, experimenting perhaps for the first time with the non-spandex ghetto at the back of the Previews catalog, will experience that particular kick in the teeth before giving up? Why would you keep ordering stuff that never arrives? This policy will most catastrophically affect the very readers we need in comics -- new ones looking for comics beyond the cape-fetish crap that will always be there, until the Direct Market finally, willfully swallows its own tail.

Look, if Diamond accepts a comic into Previews -- and for the sake of this discussion I'll concede that it's their catalog, and they can accept or reject any comic -- at that point, since the catalog goes to both retailers and readers/consumers, Diamond has a moral, ethical and should-be-legal obligation to ship all the material they are offering for sale. If they can't properly market the books in the catalog to the retailers that buy them, then they should at least accept the responsibility to ship all orders they do receive on works they agreed to include in the catalog.

This puts all the risk of the comics industry on the backs of retailers, creators and publishers, and reduces the gigantic corporation Diamond Distributing to the role of roadside flea-market manager. They're happy to take the money and dreams of any sucker who wants to set up inside, but if there's any problems, complications or special needs, well, the manager's already a half-mile down the road spending his profits at the local titty bar. Too bad. "Fuck off, artcomix" is the message, and artcomix better goddamned well be listening. Diamond's move, intentionally or not, cuts the throat of the very best, most visionary comics, ones not even created yet. Comics Warren Ellis once called "What's new and what's next."

We have the makings of a resistance movement here, and now is the time to react, organize, and counteract. I've already got some ideas, and am talking to some friends, new and old, about ways to use this disaster to make the position of artcomix in the market stronger than ever, at least for retailers and readers who want what's new and what's next. And if you don't want that, if you want what's old and worn out, well, Diamond clearly is your buddy, and will embrace you all the way to the bottom.

One thing that I emphasize over all else is pushing comics forward, and Diamond's new move represents peristalsis; not moving comics forward, but downward and out through a spandex-clad sphincter, right out into the bowl, where they can and will be flushed away. Neilalien's comments on the value of what he calls the "anything-goes unmoderated forum-bazaar" of comics are 100% right-on and really, the last word that needs to be said on this issue.

Support your local comics retailer, especially the ones who support alternative distributors like Cold Cut and FM, and don't take the lazy route of relying solely on Diamond and its callous, monopolistic policies to stock their stores. Putting all your faith in Diamond to do what's best for comics is like putting all your financial investments in Enron. It seems like a really, really good idea until the bottom falls out and there's nothing left.

Update: Vermont cartoonist Rick Veitch concurs.

Super-F*ckers Won't Make SPX After All

Late news in from Top Shelf Productions co-honcho Brett Warnock. It seems Super-F*ckers #2 won't debut at SPX after all; it won't be printed in time to make the show, unfortunately.

Hopefully we will see it soon thereafter, though -- along with True Porn 2, My Day in the Life of Jay, Jay's Book of Hate and The Freebooters, it's one of the comics I am most looking forward to for the remainder of calendar year '05.


I know that comment threads on blogs often get forgotten in a matter of hours or days after even the most interesting discussions, but I wanted to make sure I at least pointed out that comics critic Tim O'Neil has been discussing with myself and others his C- review of The Cute Manifesto in the comment thread attached to my post about his review. A tip of the hat to Tim for being willing to share his feelings about Kochalka's work, which gives added insight into his critical approach to the material, and allows myself and likely others to further explore just what it is in Kochalka's work that so resonates with our own life experiences and critical demands of the artform of comics.

14 September, 2005

An Interview with Top Shelf's Brett Warnock

Brett Warnock of Top Shelf ProductionsAlong with Chris Staros, Brett Warnock is the publisher of Top Shelf Productions, one of the two most prominent and frequent publishers of James Kochalka's work (the other being Alternative Comics, the subject of another interview coming soon). Earlier this week, Brett took the time to talk to me about publishing Kochalka's work and other topics.

How did you first get interested in comics?

Well, besides the requisite Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie comics when I read as a wee little lad, the comic that rocked my world, and which my dad bought for me rather randomly in a possible act of kismet, was X-Men #112, part of the epic Claremont/Byrne run. Flash forward a few years during which I still hadn't developed a big interest, and one day while dropping quarters into an Asteroids machine at Plaid Pantry, I spied the cover of X-Men #135. It was like stumbling across the holy grail, and I've never looked back. My Holy Trinity then were the aforementioned Claremont/Byrne X-Men, the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans and Miller's Daredevil. At that time, vets like Kirby and Ditko scared the shit out of me. They certainly weren't as pretty as Byrne. Ha! What a dumb-ass.

What led you into publishing comics?

Well, my teenage comics hero was Terry Austin, who was without a doubt Byrne's best inker ever. And so my dream was, of course, to ink the X-Men. But during high school I did nothing to further that dream. I was pretty lazy. Around the time that I graduated from University of Oregon with a B.A. in design, I met a guy named Steve Ryan, a Klingon-on-Earth type of intense guy, who happened to be one incredible artist. And still is. He took me under his wing, and taught me a great deal about not just art, but also much much more about following one's bliss and realizing one's potential. We dabbled together in more mainstream, heroic comics, and submitted some stuff to places like Dark Horse and Eclipse, to no avail.

Concurrent with this, I started to get quite bored with "mainstream" comics -- this was after all the late '80s/early '90s, arguably the absolute aesthetic nadir of American superhero comics. My local comics shop, in spite of existing two blocks from campus in an extremely progressive college town, treated indy/alternative comics like the fucking plague. Still, they did have, buried behind some D&D manuals in the back, three or four books that opened my eyes to a whole new world of comics. I guess you could say these were the comics that made me born again, and directly inspired me to publish. Pete Bagge's Hate, the issue with Stinky and the guys in the band on the cover, Clowes's Eightball, of course; an issue of the first-volume Drawn & Quarterly anthology, and David Mazzucchelli's sublime, and much-missed Rubber Blanket.

So inspired, I drew my own comics. I even submitted to D&Q. They pretty much sucked, and to be honest, writing and drawing comics didn't flow too easily for me. Luckily, I had it in me to self-publish a mini-comic. And while drawing comics may've been no fun, I had a blast producing the mini. I quickly realized that I was much more qualified to edit and publish than to write and draw.

After very little thought, it dawned on me that my potential for making comics a career was zero as a cartoonist, and "hopeful" as a publisher. The rest is history.

How did you first discover James Kochalka's work?

Well, the next discovery for me beyond Fantagraphics and D&Q was the mini-comics phenomenon, thanks to a stellar anarchist bookstore in Eugene called Hungry Head, where I first saw Joe Sacco read. And then, through John Porcellino's seminal Spit and a Half catalog, I made all those mini-comics discoveries. Tom Hart, Sam Henderson, Jason Lutes, The Brube, Megan Kelso, David Lasky, Jennifer Daydreamer, Jon Lewis, Josue Menjivar, James Kochalka, et al. This was the period when the Seattle contingent was ON FIRE, and the mail order scene was still strong. It was also, coincidentally, right before e-mail had really caught on yet, and everyone was sending -- gasp! --letters in the mail!

Kochalka was a frequent contributor to the Top Shelf anthology title, and obviously has appeared in many other anthologies as well. What do you think a Kochalka story brings to an anthology?

Well, when I got started, his willingness to do it! But no, there's a certain quality to James's comics that really touch me. A humanity that was conspicuously missing from the big deal alt-cartoonists of the day, except for Los Bros., that I still think is missing in some of our unqualified "greats." Make no mistake, I'm a HUGE fan of folks like Clowes, Ware, Panter, Burns, and the like, but one thing I don't feel when I read their comics is compassion. In fact, I finish one of their books, and I'm down for days.

James brings that intangible, lively, well, elfish quality to an book. A certain mischief.

At the time, it seemed like Top Shelf was taking a chance on publishing James's Sketchbook Diaries. While I regard the work as his best and most visionary comics, I know that it's not always his best-selling work. Can you tell me what the thought process is behind continuing to get this work out there, and what the challenges and rewards have been?

I think you answered the question yourself, Alan. Not best-selling comics are a struggle, a challenge, and best-selling comics, the reward can come in many shapes and sizes. Sadly, it's not always so easy to tell what will catch on.

The Diaries I think are some of the best comics in the history of the medium. That's the thought process as to why we decided to publish them. They are comics in the purist sense. You could not, in any other medium do what James does to convey his range of emotion, passion, joie de vivre. His attention to detail, and the ability to make deeply humane the simplest minutiae of day-to-day life. I'm honored to be publishing this.

How do you see the dynamic between Top Shelf and Alternative, Kochalka's two most prominent publishers?

Well, James is quite possibly the most prolific cartoonist of his era. Besides that, it makes good business sense for James to work with multiple publishers, no single publisher could possibly print everything that flows from his feverish imagination.

The comics artform seems to be undergoing a huge expansion right now, with more good work just this past summer than I can remember in some recent years. What do you see as Top Shelf's role in the industry?

Without trying to sound like a publicist, I just hope that we continue to publish vital comics, by established AND new cartoonists, that contribute to the well-being of the industry, both commercially and aesthetically.

You might know that I tended bar for over a decade, and did so during the formative years of my comics career, up until three years ago. It allowed me to follow my dream, and while I made MUCH more money tending bar, I'm fortunate enough to be living that dream right now. If a genie popped out of my beer bottle right now, and said "I'll grant you the job you most desire," I'd tell him to bugger off. Done.

If, in ten or twenty years, the people in comics look back on our company and what we've published as a valuable addition to the history of the medium, like I do at my friend Denis Kitchen, and Kitchen Sink, for example, then I'll die a happy man.

Any thoughts on James Kochalka's role or influence in the artform of comics?

James's influence would be impossible for me to measure, unless I could be a fly on the wall of aspiring cartoonists everywhere. But his role is as one this generation's shining lights. With comics as diverse as Monkey vs. Robot, The Sketchbook Diaries, The Cute Manifesto and Super-F*ckers, how can he NOT be looked back on as such?

Next month will mark the seventh anniversary of James's daily diary comics -- what are your thoughts on that accomplishment?

You know how I feel about his diary comics in general. The fact of its seven year anniversary is astounding. NO ONE else can make a similar claim, even though James has spawned a plethora of imitators. If he keeps it up, he'll always be the king. He started first!

What has Top Shelf got in the works in the months ahead that you'd like folks to know about, both Kochalka-related and not?

Super-F*ckers #2 is going to the printer any day now. At the printer now, and debuting at SPX is a book by newcomer Liz Prince, called Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed? Fans of James or Jeffrey Brown will love this.

Also, the sophomore effort by Max Estes is a real treat. It's called Coffee & Donuts, and is slated for a February release.

Then Renee French's long-awaited The Ticking will be coming out in June. It's AMAZING!

Thanks for taking the time to talk comics and Kochalka with me, Brett.

Thanks, Alan.

Visit Top Shelf Productions Online

13 September, 2005


At about 20 pages, DAMN YOU, FRIDA KAHLO contains nine new full-page illustrations by James Kochalka, and therefore is definitely of interest to collectors of the cartoonist's work. Thankfully, it also contains some intriguing writing by Greg Zura, and is a dense package of thought-provoking work.

It's not really comics -- as I said, all Kochalka's illustrations are full-page and alternate with full pages of Zura's poetry. The text ranges from the sublime to the impenetrable, but it's always intriguing. The best piece in the book is "Stuckey's," which benefits from some witty Kochalka drawings and the arresting rhythm of Zura's poetry.

I'm tempted to quote the passages involving life choices contrasted with various starchy side-dishes, but really it's a delicate, heady confection that you should experience for yourself. The piece is laudable for its note-perfect recreation of the way we can empathize with people we encounter only briefly, imaging whole universes of their inner lives, and remembering them for years after our one, brief, anonymous meeting. Yes, I am thinking of the beautiful blonde girl who pumped my gas that day in 1991 when I bought my black Dodge Shadow and drove to Ticonderoga just to give it a workout. I'll never forget her. Don't tell my wife.

While Zura's writing makes DAMN YOU, FRIDA KAHLO worth your attention, Kochalka's art definitely adds value to the presentation. From the lovely, subdued cover to the charming illustrations for "Dalai Lama and Me," to the great ass-pinching page in "Stuckey's," it's clear Kochalka was simpatico with Zura's intent and it's definitely interesting to see someone who works so rarely with others -- Kochalka -- do so seamlessly here. Grade: 4.5/5

Damn You Frida Kahlo is available from Last Gasp.

Shawn Hoke Finds MANIFESTO "Thought Provoking"

Head over to Shawn Hoke's Behind the Front Racks for another view of THE CUTE MANIFESTO.


It's funny that a review so lacking in insight into The Cute Manifesto cites Kochalka's own lack of insight as a key reason for the poor grade the book gets from the reviewer.

Tim O'Neil spends an entire paragraph on this bit of utter irrevelance:

First, I would like to plead with the folks at Alternative Comics to please stop advertising this book as "James Kochalka's 'Dianetics'". For anyone who knows anything about Scientology and the pernicious effects of L. Ron Hubbard's space-alien cult, it is in no way a positive association - imagine, perhaps, a tag-line such as "James Kochalka's 'Turner Diaries'". Less people have died as a result of Hubbard's madness than Andrew MacDonald's, but Hubbard's words have also effected hundreds of thousands of people for the worse. Since Kochalka isn't trying to build a cult out of vulnerable people willing to be bilked out of millions of dollars in exchange for bad sci-fi fairy tales and anti-psychiatric propaganda, I can only assume the analogy was erroneous - a product of the cult's relentless public relations campaign dedicated to masking its own true nature.

If you manage to stay awake through that, O'Neil does actually look at the book, and even makes a point I agree with:

[The "Craft Is The Enemy" posts] are reprinted here, but not (as I mistakenly inferred from promotional materials) the complete online conversation. Therefore, Kochalka's words are presented independent from the context of his slightly rancorous debate with Jim Woodring and assorted TCJ.com luminaries. Printing Woodring's comments would have been a humble gesture that could have thrown Kochalka's own evolving beliefs into sharp contrast, and additionally defined The Cute Manifesto as less of a polemic than a contribution to an existing dialogue.

I, too, was disappointed that the entire discussion was not presented in the book, but on the other hand I realize that permissions would have to be sought from everyone who took part in the discussion on the Comics Journal message board, and in fact, for all I know the other participants were asked and declined to have their comments featured. Maybe O'Neil has knowledge of this one way or the other, but it seems unfair not to find out if you're going to make such a big deal out of it.

Where O'Neil really loses me is here:

Anyone who believes in the innate goodness of the world simply because they have procreated is probably too far gone for me to comprehend: Kochalka's never-flagging spirit of Panglossian optimism will probably allow him to be a wonderful parent, but it makes for a hopelessly facile approach to art.

Given that the piece in question is about James and Amy Kochalka's decision to have a child, I'm not really certain what themes or issues O'Neil would have preferred to see examined to make the work a more successful one in his perception.

It's would be incredibly simplistic to dismiss O'Neil's review as not "getting Kochalka," and I do think overall he is smarter than that. But I found most of the work in The Cute Manifesto of real value to readers, people interested in comics, and especially people interested in further exploring Kochalka's unique worldview. Read O'Neil's entire review and contrast it with my own review, and come to your own conclusions.

Update: James Kochalka has responded to O'Neil's review:

He is...easily befuddled by the fact that I make opposite and contradictory statements in the book.

I'd say if one is unprepared for contradictions in the art they choose to experience, they may be unprepared for all art, but certainly Kochalka's.

Happy Birthday, Kira Dakota Doane!

Happy Birthday to my daughter Kira, who turns 12 today. Here she is last year getting her copy of The Perfect Planet signed by a certain superstar.

Click on the picture to view a larger image.

Super-F*ckers #2 in Ignatz Best Premier Running

The second issue of Super-F*ckers is in the running for the Best Premier of Show Award at this year's SPX gathering. The award is given to one work that is debuting at the show -- good luck to James Kochalka and all the nominees!

Tom Spurgeon has the full list of SPX Ignatz nominees over at The Comics Reporter. There's a lot of great talent nominated for awards, among my favourites being David B., Jeffrey Brown, Roger Langridge, Seth, James Sturm, John Porcellino, Jason, Gilbert Hernandez, David Collier, Dennis Eichorn, Tomer Hanuka, Asaf Hanuka, Etgar Keret, Kevin Huizenga and many others.

12 September, 2005

Go Read: Bissette on CCS Opening

Looks like Eli Kochalka was up to some enthusiastic mischief at the opening Saturday of the Center for Cartoon Studies. Go read Steve Bissette's event coverage. And yes, I am well and truly kicking myself for not somehow getting to the opening.

Update: More from Bissette on the CCS opening.

11 September, 2005

JKS's CCS Fight Song

Well, I didn't make it to the opening of the Center for Cartoon Studies yesterday as I had hoped to, so in the absence of a report on that event, here's a link to American Elf, where right now on the main page, you can download for free James Kochalka Superstar's new CCS Fight Song, which should provide inspiration for many generations of CCS cartoonists to come.

If you did attend the opening and want to write about it, e-mail me your thoughts and I will post them here.