Friday, December 27, 2013

A Chat with Kristy Valenti from Fantagraphics

Welcome to the panel, Kristy. Would  you tell us a little about your background?

I have a bachelor’s degree in Modern Literature from University of California, Santa Cruz. I started interning at Fantagraphics in 2003 and I was hired into the editorial department in 2004, where I split my time between comics projects and The Comics Journal. I also wrote a column about independent comics for ComiXology (2007–2012).

In comics, “editor” is a slippery term. It is generally understood to be the person who matches artists to writers, etc., especially on titles that feature superhero characters such as Superman or Spider-Man. Since Fantagraphics mostly publishes reprints of classic comics and/or people who write and draw their own material (“cartoonists”), I don’t do that, although we do proof the material, usher it through the production and design phases, meet deadlines, etc.

I mostly handle nonfiction prose about comics, which, from a design perspective, is about marrying image and words attractively in print. (Fantagraphics is well known for how beautifully our books are designed, and I’ve been fortunate to work with award-winning designers.)

Recently I’ve also been working on our manga titles.

What is a typical day at Fantagraphics?

No such thing: I’ve done everything from sawing wood for shelves to moderating a panel at San Diego Comic-Con! Generally, though, I answer email, coordinate with the other departments, help keep the The Comics Journal website updated, edit, copy-edit, proofread, fact check, index, do light production, maintain our archives, write copy, write criticism and history, all sorts of things.

If you weren't an editor what would you be?

Since I maintain the largest collection of comics and graphic novels in the Pacific Northwest, I would like to think I would be a librarian or an archivist.

Do you think comics have evolved into a literary art form?

Since I work for a company that has been at the vanguard of alternative or “literary” comics for more than 30 years—publishing cartoonists such as Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Charles Burns—yes!

Of possible interest to designers: since the mid-2000s or so, there’s been something that’s been called the “art-comix” movement, which focuses more on the relationship between comics, fine art, and galleries, loosely centered around the Kramer’s Ergot anthologies. 

Thanks for dropping by. We look forward to hearing more from you on the panel.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Chat with our Moderator Mark Monlux

Welcome Mark. Here we are at the 4th Graphic Novel Panel. It is so great you will moderating again.

Did you have a favorite comic as a kid?

My favorite syndicated strip was called “The Little King” by Otto Soglow. I loved the stylized king and how there was very little, if any, dialog. I respect anybody who can create visual humor like that, and he did it daily for decades. 

I also was a big fan of “Dick Tracy” created by Chester Gould.  It was the faces of his characters I found mesmerizing. I come from a big family and my oldest brother Randy was a prolific reader.  I came to rely on the reading material he brought home. His tastes became my tastes: "Zap",  "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" and a bunch of other comics that were rising out of the Haight Ashbury era, thumbing their noses at the Comics Code Authority

I also became a huge, huge, fan of Gahan Wilson. He illustrated a kid’s adventure series called “Matthew Looney” and I immediately fell in love with the way he drew. I was also influenced by the look of the animation on “Schoolhouse Rock”  and “The Point!”

What did your parents say when you told them you were going to be a comic artist?

I was four years old when my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. While everyone smiled when my brother Stan answered, "Fireman", they all grimaced when I said, "Artist". They said, “You don’t want to be an artist. They don’t make any money.” The logic didn’t seem sound to me. There was all this art in the world; surely somebody was making a dime off of it. 

So I asked what type of artist made money. My father remembered a fellow in his Rotary group and told me “Commercial Artist”. I pretty much set my compass by that answer. That didn’t keep my father from trying to steer me into joining the army or becoming an architect.

What’s your favorite drawing implement?

That’s like asking me which is my favorite finger. I think it would be easier to answer with which tool do I use the most. My office is littered with number two pencils and black Sharpies. In the ‘80s I discovered Rapidograph pens and fell in love. But they are a pain to clean and so for the last decade I’ve been using disposable versions. 

My two favorite brands are Micron and Staedtler. Microns have better fine tips and the Staedtler's ink flow remains constant even when it’s running dry. I go through Faber-Castell brush tip pens like crazy; they dry out fast. For larger brush work I like the real brush tip on the Pentel brush pen. I keep several spare cartridges for it ready.

Any sneak peeks at your moderating strategy for 2014’s Panel?

I know most of the panelists from doing the local comic convention circuit the last few years. Many of them have been hands on from start to finish with their work. I’m not merely talking about getting the work printed but how to market the books. Most artists don’t look past trying to get their work completed, let alone in print and hardly ever do they think as far ahead as fulfillment. With the recent changes that have been affecting and altering the industry, their trials and tribulation in that arena will be very informative.

Will you wear your fez in your official moderating capacity?

Ah, the fez. I belong to a drawing group in Tacoma called the Cartoonists’ League of Absurd Washingtonians, aka: the C.L.A.W.  The fez is worn at meetings and events the CLAW are involved in. The fez is a symbol of fraternal fun and community involvement. 

When I represent the Graphic Artists Guild I suit up. A suit conveys the message that we are creative professionals who skills and talents mold our culture. It dispels the stereotype of the starving artist. Now I need to decide on which power tie to wear.

Thanks for visiting Mark. We are a wee bit disappointed about the fez but will try to cope.