Friday, May 19, 2017

On The Occasion of Two Anniversaries: Personal Observations on Koyama Press and 2dcloud

When I wrote a piece for the Comics Journal after Dylan Williams died in 2011, I made sure to ask two publishers for their thoughts on him and his influence: Annie Koyama (Koyama Press) and Raighne Hogan (2dcloud). I thought of them because apart from Williams' close friend Austin English, Koyama and Hogan have carried on the Sparkplug Comic Book tradition more than any other publisher.

Let's consider Raighne Hogan first. I started writing about comics in 2000 (a review of Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde for Savant magazine, edited at the time by Matt Fraction), but I didn't get really serious about it until early 2006, when I decided to turn my occasional column into a weekly for Sequart.com. So when Raighne sent me the first two issues of his Good Minnesotan anthology, there's a sense in which we were both starting out. Hogan kept going back, eager to improve and expand. From his earliest days, Hogan's mission was championing young and unknown talent, giving them a chance to do whatever they wanted. In the early years, the focus was often on John & Luke Holden and Nicholas Breutzman (his Yearbooks is still one of 2dcloud's best comics). Hogan made a point of finding work by interesting young queer artists as well; Anna Bonbiovanni's Out Of Hollow Water is one of the best comics of the last ten years. He published Noah Van Sciver, MariNaomi and Gina Wynbrandt. Along with one-time co-publisher Justin Skarhus (almost always a part of the operation), Hogan's choices began to become more assured, to the point where a reader could have complete trust in whatever came into their catalog. 2dcloud is now the undisputed avant-garde of American comics, and Hogan publishes books relying on fundraisers so he at least can break even and at the same time determine the audience base for his releases. That 2dcloud continues to thrive despite being so uncompromising is a testament to Hogan's determination and vision.

What to say about Annie Koyama? She's been a force of nature and a champion to Canada's illustrators and up-and-coming stars. Her relationship with Michael DeForge is one where both publisher and artist greatly profited from each other's presence and support. She too has a keen eye for talent and is a remarkably nurturing and positive presence. Annie is very much like Dylan in that respect: someone who always has time for an artist who needs someone to listen to them and get encouragement. I love that she has a stable of artists (DeForge, Patrick Kyle, Jesse Jacobs, John Martz, Jane Mai, Dustin Harbin) but also that she brings in new talent all the time, like Eisner-award nominated Daryl Seitchik. There's no end to the list of artists who want to work with her, and it's especially heartening when a veteran cartoonist in need of a publisher fits in with her, like Julia Wertz. She has long supported the work of queer cartoonists and of course the work of women, actively looking to create diversity in publication while still keeping an eye on getting people to buy them. Then there's all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that she does that's been so important to so many. Koyama's genuine warmth, keen intellect and empathy shines through in her books as well as in person, just as Hogan's innate sweetness and curiosity shines through in his.      

I've had the chance to grow as a critic in part because of the challenging and exciting work that they've published. I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to review virtually everything in their back catalogs. I respect their integrity and am grateful for the respect they've shown my work. They represent what is best about comics, both in terms of aesthetic ambition and personal collaboration. May the next ten years be smooth sailing for them.                                                                            

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