Koyama Press was founded in 2007 by Annie Koyama, and has carved out an absolutely distinct line in challenging, fanciful, bizarre comics. Koyama’s books will transport you to another world, without necessarily telling you why you’re there, or what any of it means. They’re psychedelic, genre-hopping, visually challenging, and artsy to the max while still being fun, with definitive examples including Michael DeForge’s Technicolor disturbance Ant Colony, and my personal favorite, Jesse Jacobs’ epic space opera By This You Shall Know Him.
So, I was whatever the word is for way beyond excited when Koyama shared previews of their books for the first half of 2015 with us here at CL. Fans of weird comics, you have some great things to look forward to.
Mighty Star and the Castle of the Cancatervater – A. Degen
Release: April 2015
This is a definitive Koyama book, telling the convoluted story of a superhero’s fight against evil forces that are somehow manipulating art and history to pursue world domination. Though Degen’s casual, bubbly art and linear narrative makes the book at first seem less studied than the best Koyama works, he’s decided to challenge himself and readers in another way – this is a hundred-page, plot-heavy comic with no dialogue or narration.
That wordless blankness demands the reader’s attention, and challenges Degen’s visual storytelling skills, particularly since his plot is so specific and precise. There are kidnapped artists, some sort of sentient artifact-robot, and a demand for global submission. Things move fast, with occasional brief flashbacks, plenty of tense action, and a rich cast of characters.
Mighty Star might have been a traditional superhero tale, if it were told in the traditional way. But stripped of language, it’s instead hallucinatory and associative. We learn about our hero’s complex backstory and the complex schism between his enemies, all without words, making everything opaque in the best sense. Not having things quite spelled out leaves the reader a challenge, a puzzle – and it’s clear that Degen knows exactly what’s going on, so you can sense from the beginning that it’s worth the work.
Diary Comics – Dustin Harbin
Release: May 2015
Harbin’s diary, written from 2010-2012, launches with a long contemplation of what it means to write about your own life. To be frank, I think he may have come to the wrong conclusion on the question. His approach here is introspective to a fault, in a genre where a little detachment is needed to invite readers in.
Works like James Kochalka’s American Elf or Ben Snakepit’s self-titled, 13-year chronicle of debauchery, punk rock, and working in video stores are effective because they focus on the surface details of everyday life, and let the reader draw their own deeper conclusions. Harbin’s expressive, inky art is really great, but his approach to interpreting his own existence is heavyhanded, making it hard to find more in his humdrum life than he already has.
Blobby Boys 2 – Alex Schubert
Release: May 2015
Most of my favorite American artists are vicious, heartless bastards, from Mark Twain to Bill Hicks to Ishmael Reed to (early) Stephen Colbert to William S. Burroughs. These men (I’m not sure why so many satirists are men) take palpable, massive joy in slipping a knife through the ribs of everything supposedly nice and wholesome, then twisting it until the guts spill out slowly, painfully, and hilariously.
Alex Schubert and his Blobby Boys belong in that vital and degenerate tradition. The title characters are a band/gang of lowlife alien scum who have somehow become punk-rock celebrities on Earth. They steal, cheat, kill cops, and mutilate their fans, and do it all with utter moral indifference. As drawn by Schubert, their world is literally flat, shadeless, and cold, and their rampaging idiocy will stick in the throat of anyone who wants to lionize “underground” culture for its own sake.
The book is rounded out by the even colder sting of Fashion Cat, a rich, self-loathing model so vile he uses his celebrity status to get away with killing babies, abusing women, and pissing on the heads of waiters. Like the rest of Blobby Boys 2, it’s not exactly subtle, and it’s hard to enjoy unless you have the darkest of dark hearts yourself – but damn, it knows where to stick the knife.