Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday Night in Williamsburg: "Happy Accident," New Comics by Dash Shaw,​​ Ken Dahl,​​ Jesse​ Rekla​w​​ & Trevo​r Alixo​pulos​ at Desert Island

This evening we left Dumbo Books HQ just after Yom Kippur had begun and walked over to one of our neighborhood's retail treasures. The great comics store Desert Island on Metropolitan Avenue was presenting "Happy Accident," a slide​ show, book signi​ng​​ and party​ with Dash Shaw (Bottomless Belly Button),​​ Ken Dahl (Welcome to the Dahl House),​​ Jesse​ Rekla​w (The Night of Your Life),​​ and Alixo​pulos​ (The Hot Breath of War).

The store was packed with people, all of them cooler, thinner, and younger than us, but we managed to find a place by a table of books where we could park ourselves.

Jesse Reklaw got the crowd's attention while standing by a table and the screen at one side of the store by yelling "Thanks for coming" and flashing his abs.

Jesse, the elder statesman of the quartet, who did this same "Happy Accident" gig at the George Washington University Library on Monday, explained that each of them did a quadrant of the limited-edition original poster, which they were later signing copies of. By the way, Jesse's been doing a comics diary of his current book tour:

He said it would be a "reading," which is kind of weird for comics, but of course they did have a PowerPoint presentation of their art - which, luckily, we were well-positioned to watch.

Gabby Schulz, who publishes under the name Ken Dahl went first with one his Gordon Smalls stories.

Subba-Cultcha, which called Welcome to the Dahl House "an impressive, diverse and bloody hilarious collection of comic strips from the last 10 years," said the star of the book
is the character of Gordon Smalls, and his educational, and bitter thoughts on life as he slowly spirals out of control. Starting with the absolutely laugh out loud life lessons of 'Put Frozen Bananas in Your Cereal', which descend sporadically throughout the book from the innocent 'Swing at Night' to 'I Pee in the Shower; and 'Love a Colossal Waste of Time' where Gordon waxes lyrical about love, only for us to realise he is telling us all this whilst stalking his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, Gordon runs away tearfully.

Gabby read that last story, which was both funny and thought-provoking.

As The Comics Reporter said,
The most ambitious work in Ken Dahl's Welcome to the Dahlhouse is what seems at first its most traditional: a series of spoken word essays by everyman stand-in Gordon Smalls on a variety of subjects ranging from frozen bananas in one's cereal to swinging on swing sets at night to peeing in the shower. They work on their own as slightly acerbic takes on (mostly) small-town subjects, sarcastic put-downs of the absurdities of live as lived. Taken together a different picture emerges. In reading several such stories in a row, one sees how much Dahl shifts his narrative approach from straight-forward essay to involved narrative about its principal character.

Rather than a take on any variety of absurd subjects, Dahl presents the story of Gordon Smalls dealing with various feelings of combativeness and inadequacy, and takes greater and greater liberties with the way each comic shifts focus. They're not essays; they're stories about the essayist. It's a nice trick, delicately accomplished.

Up next was Trevor Alixopulous, whose new book (he uses only his last name when publishing) is The Hot Breath of War, which he said deals with war in all its guises.

Rob Clough, writing at High-Low, said of the book:
[Alixopulous'] style is more eccentric and playful than usual, channeling Jules Feiffer and Elzie Segar into his work. He's always had a loose and expressive style, especially with regard to his character design, and he unleashes that here on pages that are mostly have just one or two panels each. . . This book is as much about the collective consciousness of a society as it is about war itself, and what happens to its citizens when times become warped beyond comprehension.

Trevor read "Data Recovery," in which his young protagonist, Mason Rubella, who thought taking a graveyard shift doing data recovery, would be more fun than it proves, skips out of work (leaving a dummy in his place) to wander around a city where people are singing "Strangers in the Night" in their apartments, finally hooking up with one of two girls he calls.

Here's Rob Clough on the story's haunting end:
In an echo of Hurricane Katrina, he finds that the party and subsequent hook-up he gets into are really the last revel before the apocalypse, as the ocean sweeps away his city. As much as the protagonist is looking for connection, he's also looking for something to do, trying to forestall boredom (and hence oblivion) in the face of the chaos he encounters.

It's actually a pretty funny story as well, from a book nominated for an Ignatz Award ("Kind of the Sundance for comics," Trevor said. "Not winning won't end your career." And Jesse added, "It guarantees that you'll be nominated again and again.")

Dash Shaw then came up and showed an animated trailer for his fourth graphic novel, Bottomless Belly Button.

Dash said he did this with drawings on 720 pieces of computer paper, scanning in the imaages. Cool.

His previous books include Love Eats Brains, Goddess Head and The Mother’s Mouth.
Boing-Boing said If the controversial R.D. Laing wrote an episode of The Simpsons, it might read something like The Bottomless Belly Button."

Boing-Boing said If the controversial R.D. Laing wrote an episode of The Simpsons, it might read something like The Bottomless Belly Button."

And here's Publishers Weekly's starred review:
Shaw's stunningly conceived and executed comic opus captures one moment of change in a family. Maggie and David Loony have called their three adult children to their childhood home to announce that, after 40 years of marriage, they're getting a divorce. . .

Shaw's style deftly combines cartoon drawings with slavish attention to detail. The result feels reminiscent of a photo album, one person's quest to remember everything from the floor plans of the vacation home to the texture of the sand on the lake beach. Masterfully using the comics medium to juggle all the different characters, weaving their stories together seamlessly, Shaw allows the Loonys' emotions to play out naturally without forced resolutions, leaving a wistful hopefulness that feels just as conflicted and confusing as every family is.

Dash read (and showed, like all of the other authors, each of whom conveniently wore a little red button with their name on it), part of his online comic saga Body World in which Billy tries to get over his breakup with Pearl Peach.
Pantheon will publish the book next year.

Jesse Reklaw came up again, to read some of the wonderful four-panel dreams that he's been doing for 13 years in Slow Wave.

The Night of Your Life is a book-length collection of his Slow Wave comics, described here by the San Francisco Chronicle:
Since 1995, thousands of people have sent written descriptions of their dreams to Reklaw's P.O. box and he has turned these into four-panel, black-and-white comic strips that are as sure-handed and lucidly drawn as the subject matter is crooked and curious.

A new "Slow Wave" strip appears weekly on Reklaw's Web site ( and in a dozen newspapers around the country, including the San Antonio Current, the San Diego Reader, Albuquerque's Weekly Alibi, Charlotte's Creative Loafing and the East Bay Express. The best of the early strips -- from the seriously spiritual to hilariously dotty -- were collected in a book, "Dreamtoons," (Shambala Publications) published in 2000.

We watched such wonderful dreams as a man going to dinner with his father at six different ages in the father's life; another dinner with a friend who has a crush with a man with an evil raccoon for a right hand; and yet another restaurant scene in which the bill for just desserts comes to $3,000 but is paid for by the dreamer's mother, who's also his waitress, but only if he promises to eat his dinner later.

Jesse has been nominated four times for an Ignatz Award: Outstanding Online Comic in 2003 (Slow Wave), and Outstanding Minicomic in 2001 (Mime Compliant #5), 2003 (Lo-Horse, with David Lasky), and 2005 (Couch Tag #2).

After Jesse showed a bonus video by Dash, the terrific presentation part of the evening was over, as the crowd mingled, each of the talented (and for graphic novelists, surprisingly cute) comics artists signed their work for us fans - though they had to do it in two shifts, due to space limitations.

Thanks to Desert Island, one of Williamsburg's true retail jewels, for hosting this great evening. If you haven't seen these books or this store, you owe it to yourself to check them out.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I have some interesting ideas to share with you. In fact, there are 3 simple tips to explore.

1.1 Prepare early is one of the keys to saving on your family vacation. You have to start planning in advance. If you start your search in advance, you have a better chance to find a special offer that provides you with a budget family vacation package to a dream location. You will get lots of fun planning together as a whole family.

2. Choosing during the non-peak period is often the best bet. A holiday vacation during the non-peak period can be cheaper than peak periods. Travel agencies have special offers in May and September. It is much easier to plan a budget family beach vacation home during these 2 months. This period happens to be near the summer holidays.

3. Location flexibility is also one of the factors to a budget family vacation. Some airline companies often have promotion for specific vacation spots. Although they don't fly anywhere, if you happen to enjoy one of their vacation destinations, you will get cheaper airplane tickets for your budget family vacation.