What a great idea for a comic programming focus: this year’s Small PressE Expo, to be held September 13-14 in Bethesda, MD, will spotlight the history of alt-weekly comics, a powerful if now vanished, platform that saw creators such as Jules Feiffer, Matt Groening and Lynda Barry emerge along with dozens of other.
And to kick things off, two of those Feiffer and Barry—and Onion/Stranger co founder James Sturm are the first three announced guests.
For decades, alt.weekly newspapers such as the Village Voice and the LA Weekly showcased alternative cartoonists, many of them political, such as Ruben Bolling and Tom Tomorrow. But other strips that flourished in this venue include Maakies by Tony Millionaire, Kaz’s Underworld, and more more. But as the internet destroyed the advertising base that supported these papers, these cartoonists adapted to the web or other mediums. BUt the importance of the work and careers developed in this venue is well worthy of festival examination.
Nearly seventy years ago, a teenage Jules Feiffer entered the comics world as an assistant to the famous Will Eisner. He soon made a name for himself via his ground-breaking comic strip Feiffer, which ran weekly in the Village Voice for over forty years. Mr. Feiffer and his eponymous strip is considered the Godfather of the alt-weekly newspaper comic.
Active as a cartoonist, playwright, novelist, children’s book author, screenwriter and professor, Mr. Feiffer’s incredible career has included an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters & the Comic Book Hall of Fame, as well as a lifetime achievement award from the National Cartoonists Society. He will be at SPX 2014 to sign his latest graphic novel, Kill My Mother, which will be released this summer from the Liveright Division of W.W. Norton.
In 1979, Lynda Barry’s seminal Ernie Pook’s Comeek began appearing in the alt-weekly The Chicago Reader. For nearly two decades, her comics — which appeared in over seventy newspapers nationwide — inspired several generations of independent cartoonists who saw themselves in her characters, and recognized their struggles in her stories.
Since retiring the strip in 2008, Ms. Barry has been active as a teacher running workshops for hundreds of students a year and doing her best to show people that everybody can be creative. She is now an assistant professor at the Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Advance copies of her book, due out in October of this year from Drawn & Quarterly, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor about teaching art to all skill levels, will be available at SPX 2014.
Co-founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies James Sturm has an amazing resume. In addition to the ground-breaking school he started, Sturm co-founded The Onion as well as The Stranger, Seattle’s legendary alt-weekly newspaper, where he served as the comics editor. Mr. Sturm worked with Art Spiegleman on ‘Raw’ in the 90’s, and was a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Mr. Sturm also found time to put out graphic novels such as Market Day from Drawn & Quarterly, and The Golem’s Mighty Swing on his own imprint, Bear Bones Press. A true champion of comics, Mr. Sturm has won both an Eisner Award, and a Xeric grant. In addition, his writings and works have been published in The New York Times and The New Yorker.