Brandon Graham draws late into the night, so he promised me he’d set his alarm to wake up for our interview at ten A.M. his time. He was up when I called him by Skype in Vancouver, then we dialed in Emma Ríos in Spain, where it was already evening. “Let’s pretend it’s morning across the world,” Graham suggested. Ríos and Graham are the editors of the monthly comics magazine Island, launched last summer, which they have modeled as a kind of global conversation about the form. Printed in color and bound in an oversize format, each hundred-page-plus issue is a mix of comics, essays, fashion illustrations, and other pieces that approach the medium from diverse angles. Island has attracted significant talents—among them, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Fil Barlow, and Emily Carroll—whose work is published alongside that of lesser-known creators and recent art-school graduates. The anthology is currently nominated for a Harvey Award for Best Anthology. The tenth issue will arrive later this month.
Graham and Ríos balance their work on Island with other projects. Ríos is the artist on the best-selling, Eisner-nominated Pretty Deadly, with writer DeConnick and colorist Jordie Bellaire. Graham writes and runs the popular reboot of Prophet. Together, Ríos and Graham also edit another series, 8House, in which discrete stories take place in a shared fantasy universe.
Ríos and Graham founded Island as a platform for experimentation; they wanted to create a space in which artists could feel comfortable exploring riskier work. The first issue of the magazine opens with a short comic by Graham in which God bestows the “ultimate freedom to do whatever you wish with your time on earth,” adding, “don’t screw it up.” Island is about taking comics seriously, but, as Graham says, it’s still “a very serious joke.”
What was the response when you launched the anthology?
It’s a risky thing, because anthologies are generally not thought of as a good idea in the comics market. But then, just as the first issue came out, Grant Morrison announced he’s taking over Heavy Metal. And suddenly people are talking about magazines again.
Was Heavy Metal an inspiration?
Island is a product of nostalgia. Magazines from the eighties, like Heavy Metal and Métal Hurlant in France and Zona 84 here in Spain, came immediately to mind when Brandon proposed starting a magazine. Island doesn’t look like Heavy Metal, but it shares the desire to collect different story lines, include articles, and expand the medium as well as the viewpoint of readers. Those magazines are where I discovered artists like Moebius. I’d buy an issue to follow someone in particular and by chance discover new creators. In Island, we are bringing together artists from Europe and Asia—creators whose work we aren’t used to seeing on the shelves in the U.S. every Wednesday.
We’re following the history but also working against Heavy Metal. That was a very “teenage boy” magazine, and we’ve been conscious with Island about making comic books for ourselves, as adults. We are trying to make inclusive work that isn’t just made for—no other way to put it—masturbatory fantasies. Heavy Metal was very high-minded when it launched in France as Métal Hurlant. The modern equivalent became a bit of a joke, an airbrushed Amazonian woman on every cover. If you were a woman or gay or otherwise didn’t fit into the minor slot of its readership, Heavy Metal wasn’t the ideal magazine for you. Island is for a bigger community—not just dudes who like sexy barbarian women. Read More
Eric Green has a new exhibition at Ameringer McEnery Yohe through May 21. Green’s two series, Time Diptych and Mirrored Room, use graphite grisaille layered with colored pencil and varnish to depict the almost imperceptible passage of time in various rooms in his home in Maine. “It is the amalgamation or comparison of the two images that creates the specific emotion, not each individual panel,” he wrote. “Gauging and balancing this convergence is everything.”
Not long ago, the Complete Traveller Antiquarian Bookstore—one of New York’s increasingly rare single-topic booksellers—shut its doors. And now its longtime proprietor, Arnold Greenberg, has died at eighty-three. Read More
- Everyone loves a good international children’s-lit imbroglio, all the more so when K-pop stars enter the fray. Please note, then, that Korean pop legend IU stands accused of sexualizing the story of My Sweet Orange Tree, a Brazilian novel more than forty years old, which she recently adapted for her song “Zeze.” The book concerns a kid—yes, it’s Zeze—who gets into a lot of innocent trouble and faces corporal punishment as a consequence. But IU’s lyrics tell a different tale: “Zeze, come on up the tree quick and kiss the leaves, don’t be naughty and don’t hurt the tree, come up the tree and get the youngest leaf … you are innocent but shrewd, transparent but dirty and there is no way of knowing what’s living inside.”
- Christopher Logue was a fine poet, but I’ll always wonder what might’ve been if he’d stayed the course as an actor: “His considerable work in theatre and film as actor, playwright and screenwriter nourished the poetry, much of which was dramatic in nature … Rather pleased with his performance as Cardinal Richelieu in Ken Russell’s 1971 film The Devils, Logue boasted to the director Lindsay Anderson that he had a future as ‘the only English poet / film star.’ To which Anderson responded, sighing: ‘You will never be a star. You might become a featured player specializing in intellectual villains, artistic misfits, et cetera.’ ” (He did, it must be said, score the role of “Spaghetti-eating fanatic” in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky, from 1977.)
- The great irony of psychoanalysts is that many of them, despite the depth of their insights into filial relations, were shitty parents. Reading their family memoirs is an illuminating experience, especially in the case of Franz Alexander, whose granddaughter Illonka has written a book about him: “Her grandfather declined to house her, as if, she said, he was punishing her for her mother’s choices. She wound up in a Catholic residence for girls in downtown Los Angeles. She didn’t know that she had family in San Diego, Cleveland, New York, Chicago, Madison, and Dallas. No one told her. When Franz Alexander died, in 1964, two years later, Ilonka was adrift. Although she had two half-sisters, she thought of herself as an only child … The biggest lie: Franz told everyone that he didn’t know where Ilonka’s mother’s was. He was embarrassed, Ilonka said, analyzing him.”
- Today in publishing-industry nostalgia: Remember when magazines were rolling in the dough, and when their words-to-pictures ratio was nearly one-to-one? I don’t, either. But Robert Hughes does—he was Time’s art critic for thirty-one years, and it was, he says, good: “Being the art critic of Time in the seventies was like enjoying a perpetual research grant from the most benign of foundations. I could go more or less anywhere I wanted, look at anything I wished to, and be paid generously for doing it … If there was a show in Rome or Florence, Paris or Brussels, Berlin or London, or indeed practically anywhere in Europe, a show that could be argued to hold some interest for an intelligent reader and from which two, four, or six pages of splashy color could be extracted, off I would go … When I heard some power hog from the movie industry bombing on about the truffes sous la cendre he had recently demolished at Le Park 45 during the Cannes Film Festival, I would not need to wonder what they tasted like.”
- And today in nostalgia, full stop: Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is twenty years old, and she’s here to remind you: “I remember telling them, ‘Well, if you wanted a record that sounded like Dan Steely, then maybe you should have signed someone in their thirties, rather than me, a nineteen-year-old.’ This was met with silence, in typical form. My friend quickly leaned over and said, ‘It’s “Steely Dan,” Alanis.’ Oh, jeez. I said, ‘Well, regardless, this record represents me, and anything other than this is not a record I am interested in being a part of.’”