A Thing of Beauty: Spiro Talks Nobrow Press - Part 2

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In the second part of our interview with Nobrow Press's Alex Spiro we look at the anthology A Graphic Cosmogony, Nobrow's current releases from Jesse Moynihan and Luke Pearson, and what we can expect from the publisher going into 2012. Click here to read Part 1...

BROKEN FRONTIER: Jon McNaught is another artist whose comics avoid much dialogue. Both Birchfield Close (pictured right) and Pebble Island are remarkable in the way they eschew traditional comics plotting conventions to so evocatively, and memorably, capture small moments in time. How would you summarise Jon’s style and contribution to your output?

SPIRO: Jon is just one of these artists that came to us fully formed, I was dumbfounded that no one had asked him to author his own works before. It was love at first sight: his stories were so poetic, nostalgic, but never came close to being corny or clichéd. It was refreshing as well to have someone taking a different tack to the subjects so prevalent in this alt comics territory: loneliness, frustration, both sexual and otherwise, and an overall disappointment with what life has or has had to offer. Here was a comic book artist who found the beautiful in the mundane, the poetic in the monotonous, the fun in abject boredom. It was a breath of fresh air!

BF: A Graphic Cosmogony is the Nobrow book I find myself returning to the most often. It almost feels like a kind of gang show for the Nobrow “repertory company”. For the BF audience, give us the lowdown on the concept of the book and how it came about…

SPIRO: It was to be our very first anthology, so we thought, where better to begin than at the beginning? The entire book would present tales of the creation of the universe, 7 pages at a time, through the hands of 24 four artists/authors, get it? 24/7?

We also wanted the book itself to feel biblical somehow, physically, so we used a paper similar to bible paper, pulpy but very light. It looks heavy, but is actually very light when you pick it up, which mirrors the concept: you would think a book dealing with creation would be quite a heavy read, but it's really just 24 artists and cartoonists having a really fun and light-hearted time of being modern day shamans!

Besides the superficial Judeo-Christian references the book was never intended to have a specific religious undertone, the tales explored were either entirely invented by the artists or drew from a variety of religions and cultures from around the globe. It clearly struck some kind of chord, because to this day it remains one of our best selling titles!


Interior pages from A Graphic Cosmogony

BF: Moving on to Behind the Tails, this is a series that gives the unseen opening chapters to fairy tales and explains the origins of the classic rivalries they contain. You began with Bjorn Rune Lie’s The Wolf’s Whistle - featuring a certain wolf and three pigs - which was self-knowingly presented in the style of a children’s story book, but with a sly nod and a wink to an adult audience. Are there plans to follow up on The Wolf’s Whistle in the near future?

SPIRO: The Wolf's Whistle is particularly close to my heart, having co-authored it with Scott, the concept was simple and probably not that original, but the individual responses to the tales were quite new approaches I thought. Bjorn follows Albert, a scrawny little wolf who spends his lunch break drawing and dreaming of selling his story to Wonder Comics.

He is terrorised by the three bratty Honey-roast brothers (they’re of the porcine persuasion, naturally), the bully-boy sons of a local property magnate. Eventually Albert is forced to make a stand against his oppressors and fulfil his destiny as the crime-fighting Lone Wolf. Bjorn and I have spoken of it, but nothing is concrete yet. I for one would love to see the crime fighting wolf wreak his revenge on those despicable Honeyroast brothers and their evil-spirited mobster dad Al Prosciutto! We'll keep you posted :)

BF: You have two new books out now. How does Luke Pearson’s Everything We Miss compare to his earlier Nobrow offerings in A Graphic Cosmogony and Hildafolk? It sounds like something of a change of pace, thematically, to that previous material.

SPIRO: Everything We Miss is directed at a much older audience, deliberately. Luke was keen to pursue Hildafolk with a follow up, but we both felt that moving on to a sequel right away might pigeonhole him as a children's author, making a later transition to darker material more problematic. By moving directly onto Hilda's polar opposite in book form, it would give him the opportunity to develop both audiences concurrently. In short, Everything We Miss is very, very different to Hildafolk, the closest comparison I would make to EWM in tone would be Clowes' Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, which, incidentally, is one of my favourite comics of all time! EWM is a seminal work from a great, great talent, I recommend everyone buy a copy.

BF: Your other major new project is the first volume of Forming, from Xeric Award winner Jesse Moynihan - a collection of the mythologically-influenced webcomic. In a narrative sense this sounds slightly different to some of your other books; multiple volumes and an epic, sprawling storyline. What attracted you to publishing Jesse’s work?

SPIRO: Well we are always keen to try new things, Jesse's comic stood out to me because it was beautifully created and, quite simply, it made me laugh my ass off. We wanted to try our hand at a bigger project that we had to commit to, it would permit us to really lavish attention on the book itself. Let's not forget this is a web comic, so the challenge to make what was essentially available for free online attractive to fans and new customers was quite a challenge. One that we were more than happy to take on!

Although we have no doubt that webcomics are on the rise, there is a strong sense that even so, fans will want to own some physical incarnation of the stories they love and follow and I don't think that will change any time soon.

BF: Nobrow have a physical presence as well with a shop/gallery in East London. Tell us a little about that space and how it promotes the NoBrow ethos.

SPIRO: Well the space is our office/atelier/retail outlet, it is everything that we are - quite a Victorian set up actually. It's been wonderful to showcase such great artists here and such close friends. At the moment we have an amazing show of prints and other works by Istanbul-born illustrator Eda Akaltun and shortly following her show will be Ben Newman and his infamous Masks and then in November: Blexbolex!

It's a very self-indulgent process if I'm honest, because we get to have our favorite artists' work surround us for that two month period every day of the week when we come to work and we love it. We all help out with the shows to make them an overall experience, with wall paintings, installations (in one case an artist built a mini Russian Orthodox church out of a garden shed and stuck it in the lower ground floor space) and sometimes moving image; and the shop usually moves around with the show too, so its a constantly changing space. Its very exciting, but it does sometimes distract from our work as publishers, but then are used to giving ourselves more than we can handle.

BF: And, finally, what can we expect to see from Nobrow in the rest of 2011 and moving forward into 2012?

SPIRO: Over the next few months we'll be releasing a host of new titles, including Klaus by former wills lawyer-turned-cartoonist Richart Short, No Man's Land, a new graphic novel by Blexbolex, and Nobrow 6: The Double which is twice the number of pages of our previous issues and get this, for the first time half of the magazine is entirely dedicated to comics.

We'll have 30 comic creators, including Kevin Huizenga, Tom Gauld, Sammy Harkham, Andy Rementer, Jon McNaught, Michael Deforge, John Martz and Gemma Correll (to name but a few) taking a double page spread each and as in all all previous issues 30 illustrators taking a spread too, it's going to be a beast of a publication at 120 pp! So we are very excited about that!

Moving forward into 2012 we'll be working hard on reaching our audiences in USA and Canada and also improving our distribution in France and Belgium - we like to think of ourselves as a (not too rickety) bridge between the North American and Continental Comic worlds and in that way being in the UK isn't so bad.

For more on Nobrow's output check out their website here where you can see previews of all their books and their online store here.You can also follow Nobrow Press on Twitter.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 22, 2011 at 3:05pm

    alright,, alright, I ordered Graphic Cosmogeny and Everything We Miss.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Aug 22, 2011 at 3:12pm

    I haven't picked up EVERYTHING WE MISS yet but I can heartily recommend A GRAPHIC COSMOGONY. One of the very best comics offerings I've read this year.

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