Shout-out: Tod C. Parkhill


Tod C. Parkhill grew up on a non-functioning farm in South-western Virginia. He drew his first comic at age 5 about a 1/3 fish, 1/3 frog, ½ dragonfly that came to life in a pond full of toxic chemicals. It didn’t make any sense to anyone then either. He continued to make comics throughout high school and college that made just as much sense (read: none).

In 2001, he founded Young American Comics (http://www.youngamericancomics.com/), a small press publishing company that produced many collaborative projects and experimental comics including The BIZMAR (Bunny, Insect, Zombie, Monkey, Alien, Robot) Anthology, The Small Town/Big City Anthology, Captain Preposterous, The Mighty Offenders and 250 Crumpled Wads of Paper. He continued publishing books with his wife Corey Marie (http://coreymarie.com/) until the financial downturn of 2008 caused them to close shop in 2009. 

He has since worked as a writer and/or artist on several comics such as Star Wars Tales by Darkhorse Comics, The Yo Gabba Gabba: Comic Book Time by Oni Press and Aftershock, a book to benefit the relief efforts after the Japan earthquake by Big Ugly Robot.

He currently lives with his family in a small town in central Michigan and is working on a 366-day “page-a-day” comic challenge which can be found (among other things) at his blog todorrobot (http://www.todorrobot.com/). He is also contributing to as many comic anthologies as he can make time for and can be contacted at todparkhill@gmail.com. 

Editor's note: Tod has the dubious honor of being the first person I met at college in Richmond, VA. If I remember correctly, he approached me because I was wearing a TMBG shirt (if you don't know what that stands for, congratulations, you may not be a nerd). He introduced himself to me and my family as "Tod with one 'D'". This was apparently so memorable that my dad, to this day (20 years later), still says, "Tod with one'D'?" whenever Tod's name comes up. 

Anyhow, Tod also has the dubious honor of being the first person to publish my comics. He always came up with great ideas for anthologies. I sort of feel I'm carrying/relighting the torch for Young American Comics with both the Digestate anthology and by publishing some of our mutual friend Ben Snakepit's comics (Tod's publishing company published Snakepit comic diaries quarterly in the early part of this century). 

** Tod & his wife Corey are opening Riverside Art & Supply Co., an artist studio, boutique of handmade items (including comics & zines), classes, cupcakes & tea, etc. in their community in Michigan.


Shout-out: Kevin Cannon


Kevin Cannon is a cartoonist and illustrator from Minneapolis. He is best known for his Eisner nominated graphic novel "Far Arden" and he was picked by City Pages as the "best cartoonist in the Twin Cities" in 2011 (a title he doesn't agree with but he'll go ahead and use it for promotional purposes). Kevin runs Big Time Attic studio with not-brother Zander Cannon, and together they have illustrated several nonfiction graphic novels about evolution, genetics, paleontology, and the space race. Also, Cannon is a carnivore.

Editor's note: Judging from Kevin's inscription inside, I picked up "Far Arden" at MoCCA 2009. I'm pretty certain I picked it up solely based on the drawing style, but man was I in for a surprise. This was one of my favorite (if not my favorite) comics published in '09. It works on so many levels: compelling adventure story, humor that made me laugh out loud ("LOL" for you kids), intricately woven enigmatic characters, a surprisingly touching ending and, as I mentioned, great drawings. 

Cannon paid a lot of attention to some seemingly minor elements of the comic that really stood out to me. His use of tongue-in-cheek exposition cracks me up (the beginning of one scene has a character saying, "...so, to reiterate what I said on the walk over here, Sampson and Josh here are not naval officers, but cops of a special nature..."). Extremely specific written sound-effects are also consistently funny ("ANGRY ORPHAN PUNCH!", "MID-AIR GROIN GRINDER", etc.). The transitions between scenes are always well thought out. Often dialogue from the last scene carries over into a new scene, but has some significance to the new scene as well. Cannon even amuses himself with an in-joke deposited within the story (discussing a secret code, a character says, "Even a teenager with a genetics-themed graphic novel could have figured this out", referring to a nonfiction graphic novel Cannon co-illustrated.)

Oh, also, check out Kevin & Zander's Double Barrel for lots of new work.

A new Army Shanks adventure

Interior page from "Crater XV"

Lake Minnesota

Northeast Minneapolis


Where To Sell Your Mini Comics

The following is a guest post by Evelyn Tate, with subject matter & stores suggested by yours truly. Enjoy!

When Love For Art Prevails Over ˝Cash-In˝ Desire, Mini Comics Are Born
In every art form, there are two types of people: there are those who cash in, and then there are those who are broke! In the music world, pop and mainstream music are an example of those who cash in. Of course, there is also the jealous bunch who will tell you that there is no real artistry where the money is. They will come at you with pitchforks and torches yelling how these “mainstream” artists have sold out from the art. We all know that no one will say no to a few dollars, and we all wish to create the next big thing.

Kevin Cannon's "Beard Hero" mini comic

When You Expect ˝NO˝ When Asking for Shelf Space for Your Mini, You Are Probably Right
Our world of comics isn’t that different. Only thing is, instead of mix-tapes and self-published You Tube videos (where Justin Bieber was discovered) we have mini comics. Say what you will, but these comics represent the truest form of artistic expression that comics have. They form beautiful channels of expression and creativity. What is so great  about them is that you can find any sort of content and style you are looking for. From dark humor, mystery stories, simple sketching, complicated composite drawings, squiggles of almost incoherent lines and so many other artistic elements all within the pages of these free expression comics.

While some of us do this purely for the love of the art, there are those who want to share or cash in on their comics. Anyone who has ever tried to sell their own comic knows that it really is an uphill battle. The brutal truth is that there are not many people who will go out of their way to look through the piles of mini comics in their local comic store. Why should they anyway? Who knows if you even have content that is worth their hard earned two bucks? If you are trying to sell your mini comics, you should probably read what Alex Cox has to say about it. Although he closed the doors to Rocketship a few years ago, his advice remains valid. 

A comic shop is not like a soup kitchen; it needs to make sales to stay afloat! That is why they most likely won’t give you a second thought about giving up space on their shelves for your mini comics. What’s more, even those that honestly want to help you out have costs to think about, too. No matter how good hearted they are, at the end of the month when the landlord comes knocking, he doesn’t want excuses. His landlord insurance doesn’t cover broke comic stores with an affinity for helping mini comic artists! Accolades are due to comic shops that actually give space to this art form.

R.I.P., Rocketship - It was fun while it lasted!

When You Expect ˝NO˝ When Asking for Shelf Space for Your Mini, You Might Be in For a Huge Surprise
In a time when artists are turning to the web to provide greater publicity, giving up your shelf space is a real sacrifice. Some of these comic retailers that have taken their space to showcase mini comics in their stores, still stand proud, though.

If you live in New York City, Forbidden Planet (check out their new location!) and Jim Hanley’s Universe are great spots to check out mini comics. Across the bridge, Desert Island in Brooklyn also ensures that mini comics see the light of day. Owner, Gabe Fowler, is also one of the founders of the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival.

Forbidden Planet's new digs
JHU storefront (photo by Garrett Kling)
Desert Island (photo borrowed from an interview with Gabe Fowler in Readymade Magazine)

We all love the traditional brick and mortar comic stores; there’s just something authentic about them. What makes them even better is when they carry your favorite editions and a huge section of mini comics, like Quimby's and sister store, Chicago Comics, does. 

Quimby's - oh, how we love that logo by Chris Ware (photo by Wonkavision)
Chicago Comics storefront (photo from The Cool Kids Table blog)

In Baltimore, Atomic Books in Maryland has a section devoted to mini comics (and  zines). They are not a comic store in the strictest sense of the word, but they give plenty of space to DIY mini comics and even occasionally publish their own ("Mutant Funnies"). Owner, Benn Ray, encourages self-publishing through his The Revenge Of Print group 

Atomic Books storefront (photo from Atticus Books blog)

Jason Leivian’s Floating World in Portland, Oregon is also worth checking out if you are in that area. They have a stylish place with a lot of comics on offer. However, it is Jason’s love for the little guy of art that is especially inspiring. You can check out their collection ofmini comics and even pop in for their exhibitions when they are up.

Floating World (photo from here)

Laughing Ogre, which has locations in Columbus, Ohio and Virginia is also worth mentioning. The traditional image of a geeky, messy area is put to shame here with their large, ultra-organized shelving. They have a great array of comics, including local mini comics that you can look through.

The Laughing Ogre (photo from Flavorwire)

There are so many other shops across the country, and indeed across the world that could be mentioned. Austin BooksThe Secret HeadquartersHouse of Secrets and many other shops give mini comics even a small chance. Wherever your shop is, thank you for giving these artists a chance. You never know, you might be stocking the next big thing.

If you live near these comic shops, please go and support them. Take a few minutes to go through their mini comics instead of rushing for the latest edition of The Avengers. It won’t cost you a lot to buy an interesting mini comic, they are usually cheap anyway. Let’s support these unsung heroes in their labor of love. You can also attend mini comic events, such as the Mini Comics Day or any of the great mini-centric festivals where you can meet the artists face to face (MoCCASPXCAKESTAPLEAPESTUMPTOWNTCAFBC&GF, etc., etc.)

* If you know of a retailer that deserves recognition for carrying handmade comics, please give 'em a shout-out in the comments!


Shout-out: Jeff Zwirek


Jeff Zwirek's comics work includes Jack Rabbit, Black Star, Pinstriped Bloodbath, and Burning Building Comix. He has received a nomination for an Ignatz award, and his comics have been named "Notable Comics" multiple times by the Best American Comics anthology. He lives and works in Chicago, with his wife and two sons.

Editor's note: Mr. Zwirek is one of the few people who can keep me from being last in an alphabetical listing. He also knows how to create a striking mini comic. So much so, in fact, that I always bring copies of his 'Burning Building' series and 'Pinstriped Bloodbath' anthology along as examples of superb presentation whenever I sit in as a guest lecturer at C.M. Butzer's 'Creating Independent Comics' class at SVA. 

'Burning Buildings' features ten independent stories linked together by the fact that they all take place in an apartment building that has caught fire. The stories each center around the inhabitants of each floor of the building, with the fire creeping slowly upwards. Each issue contains two stories (in both senses of the word), and each issue is meant to be placed atop the last to form the entire building. Plus, each issue has a hand-burned drawing glued inside!

Jeff recently got funding to produce the series into a full-color book, so I can't wait to see how he tackles the logistics of translating it from separate minis into a single piece. 

Front cover of "Burning Building Comix'

Page 8 from 'Burning Building'

Page 14 from 'Burning Building'
'Pinstriped Bloodbath' is a fantastic anthology of true-crime comics featuring artists all from Chicago. Arguably the best part of the anthology is it's cover: a wraparound silk-screened suit that "unbuttons" to reveal the comic inside. The crowning touch is a hand-splattered splash of blood (red ink) on each issue. That Ivan Brunetti illustrated belly-band ain't bad, either!


New Birdcage Bottom Books logo!

I didn't think a logo could make me so happy, but this one is so adorable I just want to squish it!

While redesigning our website (I designed the current one, but I feel we're outgrowing my limited abilities), old pal & graphic designer extraordinaire Michael Lassiter threw in what he calls a "logo refresh" but I think could be more accurately dubbed a "logo overhaul". He designed the original logo, so don't worry about anyone's feelings being hurt. I didn't think he could improve on the original, but I stand happily corrected.

Please check out his other fine work here: mlassiter.com

I can't wait to see what he does with our website (hoping to have it operational in September when the Digestate anthology has it's soft release).