Beta Testing Civilization




You’re invited to celebrate, with cartoonist / publisher Tom Kaczynski, the release of his book Beta Testing the Apocalypse (Fantagraphics) and the unveiling of the Uncivilized Books’ Five Year Plan. He also invited the entire Twin Cities Uncivilized Books artist roster. We know you won’t mind. Many copies of Beta Testing The Apocalypse have been specially released from the bunker and a commemorative red ink will be used in authorizing your copies. After the event, there will be mandatory fun at the Downtown Grumpy’s.

5 TO 7 PM

1027 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415 (612) 338-4390


MIX + Minneapolis / St. Paul Comics Scene Report

mix 2011 poter by tom kaczynski

My Minneapolis / St. Paul comics scene report went up over the weekend on Frank Santoro‘s Riff Raff column over at the Comics Journal. Frank asked for 400 words. I pretty much ignored him and turned in 2000. Not on purpose Frank!

After having lived in New York for almost a decade I expected a hard adjustment to a smaller Minneapolis scene when I moved back three years ago. But it became quickly apparent that the Minneapolis/St. Paul comics scene was nothing to sneeze at. In fact, the Twin Cities really are one of the great comics places in the US. Anyway, I’m sure I missed a lot of people in my report, so feel free to point them out! Heck, if you think you can do a better & more exhaustive Mpls/St. Paul report go for it! And Let me know when/if you do it. Actually, wouldn’t it great if there was a sort of ‘annual report’ that summed up the comics scene every year? I’d love to see something like it. Check out my effort out if you haven’t already.

As part of the report I was also going to do a MIX 2011 report, but things got wordy and I’m sure Frank appreciates that I didn’t include it in the piece. Instead I was going to detail my impressions on this blog. However, in the meantime, cartoonist Dustin Harbin wrote a great exhaustive report on the eXpo. He pretty much nailed it. Instead of wasting more pixels on yet another report, you should all just read his. I really appreciate his honest take. From my local perspective it was a great show. An amazing array of guests (Koyama Press! Adhouse! Top Shelf! Jim Rugg! Dustin Harbin! Ander Nilsen! Sarah Glidden! Julia Wertz! John Porcellino! Mike Dawson! Eamon Espy! Jon Lewis! Karen Sneider! Robyn Chapman! Rina Ayuyang! David Huyck! Microcosm! + more!) arrived and seemed to have a great time. I made decent money, but it’s hard not to do that at you local show when you don’t have travel expenses to contend with. My main concern was with the out of town guests. I really wanted them to do well, have a great time and come back in the future. I hope they will. Kudos to Sarah Morean for pulling off a great show. Check out Dustin’s report. Oh and I uploaded all my MIX pics to Flicker if anyone cares.

mix 2011 banner by tom kaczynski

Pics from Sweat Stains, Beer, And Cigarettes

by bill hauser

I was digging around in iPhoto for something and I found a few pics from the closing party to the Sweat Stains, Beer, And Cigarettes show from a few weeks back. I promptly uploaded them to Flickr. My big discovery of the show was the art of Bill Hauser. He works primarily as an illustrator and creates a ton of cover art for a variety of bands. I really like his old school, cartoony take on horror… and he has the chops to pull it off very well. I also really like his hand-made typography. Again, it’s cartoony, but the type is always tight, well arranged, with interesting letter forms.  More Pics here.

Blood Folke at Kitty Cat Club

blood folke by Tom Kaczynski

Dan Wieken‘s metal band, Blood Folke (pictured above), played at the Kitty Cat Klub in Minneapolis last night. Their epic folky doom-laden sound was the perfect antidote to the madness known as St. Patrick’s day.

The Night (pictured below) opened. I feel bad for opening bands I draw. The drawings I make of them tend be my warm ups… and result in a couple of awkward images.

The Night by Tom Kaczynski

A couple more drawings of the Kitty Cat Klub:

Kitty Cat Klub by Tom Kaczynski

Minneapolis Indie eXpo

I’ll be at the Minneapolis Indie eXpo tomorrow (Saturday, August 21, 9-5). I’m camped out at table 50 with St. Paul artist Dan Wieken and a couple of out of town guests Jon Lewis and Karen Sneider.

the petrified catalogue by dan wieken

Uncivilized Books will debuting two new books during the show. First up is Dan Wieken’s The Petrified Catalogue (pictured above). Dan’s extremely detailed images of decayed and petrified remains of real and imaginary creatures has to be seen to be believed. Here are a few pictures that fail do justice to his drawings. This books needs to experienced in person:

the petrified catalogue by dan wieken

the petrified catalogue by dan wieken

The other book debuting is Structures 1-11. It’s a book of drawings (by me) of imaginary structures. Regulars on this blog may be familiar with some of the imagery. Just check out the ‘structure’ tags on this blog:

strucutres 1-11 by tom kaczynski

We’ll also have the usual Uncivilized catalogue, including Gabrielle Bell’s L.A. Diary.

In other MIX related news, I will have a 4 page Ransom Strange story in The Good Minnesotan #4:

ransom strange by tom kaczynski

and on top of that I’m moderating a panel on comics education. See the program for details.
See you at the Soapfactory!

Minneapolis Indie eXpo

Twin Cities Zinefest 2010: Post Mortem

zinefest minneapolis tim sievert andy sturdevant
Zinefest Panelists, clockwise from top-left: Tim Sievert, Andy Sturdevant, Andy Sturdevant's leg and Ariel Pate

The 2010 Twin Cities Zinefest came together rather well. I’ve attended the festival since I moved back to the Twin Cities in 2007, and each year the show has gathered steam. This year the duration of Zinefest was scaled back from two days to one day. But, what the show lost in time, was made up it’s intensity. In previous years the two day show felt diffuse and under-attended. Shortening the time focused the show. It felt consistently busy and well attended. In previous years the two day format left a lot room for significant dead-time.

Another thing that struck me at the show was a kind of new vitality. Since the early 00’s the atmosphere at zinefests around the country felt depressed and melancholy. The rise of the internet sucked all the oxygen from the substantial zine ‘revolution’ of the 80’s & 90’s. Attending a zinefest sometimes felt like descending into a camp of nostalgic luddites (guilty as charged). But this year it seemed like there was a new spark. I didn’t detect too much pining for a lost golden age. Perhaps the internet is starting to lose it’s sheen of novelty? Maybe Prince is right…? The internet is starting to… simply be. It’s… something we’re becoming used to. Just because the internet IS, doesn’t mean that other things must cease to be. Also, I think our bodies are becoming tired of the computerized deprivation chamber. Is it a coincidence that the rapid rise of the Internet has been paralleled by the rise of New Urbanism with it’s corollaries of walking and biking? The rise of the virtual mirrored by the return of the repressed: the physical world. This… new physicality (?) seems to be the source of the zine resurgence. Whether this energy is a temporary localized phenomenon (a TAZ?), or whether this is something that can be sustained into the future I don’t know. Perhaps it was simply a good show.

The Zinefest day was capped off by a fun after-party at the Seward Cafe. The party started off with a panel headed by Andy Sturdevant (pictured above). I know a lot of good bands played, but I missed them all because I ended up talking too much in the garden behind the Cafe.

Favorite Zinefest object: Esoteric Bullshit: Cairns by King Mini (pictured below). It’a an 8 page, 3-color silkscreened booklet. The images of abandoned detritus will be familiar to fans of King Mini’s work, but I detected something new lurking in these drawings. As the booklet progresses the discarded objects become increasingly organized and ordered… into new structures… as if the trauma that created these assemblages was being overcome… the apocalypse followed by a renewal… an appropriate coda for the whole show. Update: This is now available via the Etsy shop.



minneapolis tornado august 2009
Click to enlarge
A tornado hit some parts of Minneapolis this afternoon. I was able to take a few pics of the aftermath. Take a look.
UPDATE: Added a few more pics to the set. These are closer to home… a few blocks around Franklin and 5th.
minneapolis tornado august 2009

Minneapolis Street Car Golden Age

I recently started researching the historical Twin City Street Car system for a future project. Having moved back to the Twin Cities from New York fairly recently, it’s hard to prevent tears from flowing, when you see the following article from the July 1954 issue of the Mass Transportation Magazine posted in a short by informative article at Eyeteeth:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge
Needless to say, the local public transportation system hasn’t really recovered since the death of the Street Car. Still there are glimmers of hope. The Hiawatha light-rail line is a great start, and I hope they hurry up and build the Minneapolis-St. Paul link already! Then there is the tantalizing 2007 Street Car Feasibility Report. It took some 70 years for the Twin Cities to build a world class Street Car system. It took less than 3 years to dismantle it. How many years (if ever) before we can have a system as extensive as this again:

Map by Brett McKean. Click to enlarge