Government Shutdown Hits Comics




By Bruce Lidl

While wandering the aisles at the 2013 Alternative Press Expo in San Francicso this past weekend, overwhelmed by comics, comix, and knitted hats, the problems dominating Washington DC seemed very far away indeed. Yet, even here among the alternative nerds, we felt the effects of the government shutdown, depriving us of a long-awaited (at least by me) new graphic novel, Fantagraphics’ Hip Hop Family Tree from Ed Piskor (Wizzywig). Serialized over many months on the popular Boing Boing blog, Family Tree is an amazing graphic history of the rise, and rise, of hip hop from its early days in 1970s New York up until its mainstream breakout by the mid-1980s. With an almost obsessive level of historical detail and a clear desire to examine deeply the foundational myths of the birth of hip hop, Piskor has created a unique exploration of the music and the times that spawned it.

Originally slated for release at the San Diego Comic Con, and then delayed until early October and coinciding with APE, Family Tree instead got held up in customs as the government shutdown (or “slimdown” for Fox News viewers) has massively slowed down the work of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “They are not entirely closed,” according to Eric Reynolds, Associate Publisher of Fantagraphics, “but they are kind of working half time, so instead of having Family Tree at APE as we hoped, the books are sitting on the docks in New York.” Reynolds expects them to clear customs sometime this week, but instead of having them for sale at what would have been a welcoming audience at the APE show, potential customers will have to wait and track them down elsewhere.

The government delay also played havoc with Piskor’s schedule, forcing him to postpone an in-store appearance and signing at Chapel Hill Comics from this past Saturday night to November 16. You can also see Piskor speak Saturday October 19th as part of the Chicago Ideas Week conference.