This is a blast from the past. I was organizing some old links and this jumped out immediately! It’s an old ComicComics (who also misses ComicsComics?) post written by Frank Santoro. My comics at the time were appearing in the MOME anthology published by Fantagraphics. Frank’s take on my comics was an important and eye-opening moment for me. As I’m posting Adalbert Arcane’s notes to the new edition, it was fun to revisit this take. The post predates (by a few years) the first collected edition of Beta Testing the Apocalypse.
Frank has a fun no-nonsense writing style. A few snippets:
“This isn’t a review or anything that attempts to cast a truly critical eye on the comics work of Tom Kaczynski. It’s more of an appreciation. For me, Tom’s work is an oasis in the desert. And the desert is contemporary alternative comics. I find 80% of today’s alt-comics poorly constructed — a veritable colony of lean-to shacks that could be blown over in a strong wind. In contrast, Tom K builds comics that could be likened to a brick house. These are solid comics. Is it any surprise that many of his stories have to do with architecture or that he went to architecture school?”
I feel firmly rooted in Tom’s stories. I understand where the characters are, where I am as a reader. Never a bottle-necked area of the page or spread. It’s all very clear and airy, like walking through some Beaux-Arts 19th century library building. There are clear sight lines and strong centers on every page.
On 100,000 Miles:
The “Highway Story” (100,000 miles) is interesting because it balances a certain sense of movement along with a realistic, believable sense of scale. Cars packed on a highway in slow motion, car crashes, cars lined up in a parking lot. Close-ups of the protagonist in his car and long shots of endless highway ribbons. It’s a short story, maybe only 8 or 9 pages—yet within the first couple pages a world is defined by the landscape itself.
On 976 sq ft:
The “Condo Story” (976 sq ft) in contrast is less about balancing movement & scale as it is about scale itself. It opens with a couple on a rooftop looking down on to the street where a woman is walking a dog. So immediately here is the set-up: Seeing the world, or more specifically a neighborhood as a scale model. There is also a wonderful transition where the condo in real life fades into an architectural scale model of the same building.
On Million Year Boom:
The “Corporation Story” (Million Year Boom). I can clearly see in my mind how perspectives & sightlines carry the reader across panels and the spreads of this story. There are very strong “horizontals” in this story (almost in counterpoint to the strong “verticals” present in the “condo story”). The corporate headquarters is low & wide, and the page compositions are tailored to convey the sense of open yet contained space. There’s a great scene when the protagonist dives into a long rectangular pool that spans two panels.
I really enjoy his writing and drawing. He definitely owes a debt to the works of J.G. Ballard and Daniel Clowes. This is not a bad thing. Ballard was a surgeon with his words and the same could be said for Clowes with his drawing. Kaczynski has incorporated both masters’ approaches into his own work in a way that I find inspirational. He went through his influences and came out on the other side with something new, something his own. Like some hauntingly familiar “house style,” the approach fits the subject matter like a glove.
I can’t overemphasize how personally important this post was back when I was working on these stories for MOME. It’s rare when you find a reader that looks at your works this closely and just groks the vibe. Frank zeroes in on several sequences and moments that I agonized over. To have a reader unpack the structure of the comics with such precision was (and still is) personally very gratifying and gave me the oxygen to keep working on this material. I don’t know if I ever said thank you? Thank you, Frank!
I’ve been quiet about my new book, Beta Testing the Apocalypse (Fantagraphics), mainly because, until very recently, I was still working on finishing all the art & design for it. Fantagraphics has already announced on their site, where it is also available for pre-order (hint, hint). I’m very excited to officially announce it here. What’s in the book you ask?
It collects most of my work from MOME. Finally, a single place to see all those stories.
Most of my work there was black & white, so I took some time and colored all the stories. The book will be printed in two-colors throughout. A different Pantone color for each story.
A brand new story ‘The New’!
A full index. I’ve never seen a proper index in a comic-book (at least I can’t remember seeing one). I’ve always wanted to be able to look up concepts or even just drawings or sequences based on an index. It was really fun to put together. I’m hoping to start a trend here…
Over the last few months, I’ve been wanting to post some art and progress reports on the book. In the end there was little time for that. In a way this felt like I had a chance to one more last MOME story, and it’s also the last time I was MOMEd. Over the next couple of months, in anticipation of the release, I’m going to share a bunch of drawings, ideas and other goodies about the book. Stay tuned!
Here’s another item I neglected to note: the passing of the MOME anthology. My first comic for MOME appeared in issue #7. That time seems impossibly distant. I was still living in New York at that time and hadn’t published much of anything… besides a bunch of mini-comics and short pieces here and there. I was grateful & excited to be included and produced a steady stream of short pieces for my first few issues. I was unable to keep up that productivity indefinitely, which was just as well. There were other cartoonists waiting in the wings for a chance to be included. But since then, MOME became a constant presence. Whenever I came up with some crazy short story idea I knew it would probably find a place in some future volume of the anthology. Well no longer. MOME closed it’s doors this summer with issue 22. I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute to the last volume. My final MOME story is called “Music for Neanderthals.” In retrospect the theme of extinction was fitting…
I think MOME’s influence will reverberate into the future and will have an outsized effect on future comics… or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking. Here’s to MOME! It will be missed.
Fantagraphics posted some preview pics of the last issue. You can ge the book here.
I wrote about this 15 page collaboration with Dash Shawsome time ago. The story is called ‘Resolution’ and it is published in the current issue of MOME. That very issue (vol. 17) has just made it onto the shelves of comic-book stores. More information, video & PDF previews and the option to buy the book courtesy of Fantagraphics.
I probably don’t do this sort of thing enough… but here are a few recent reviews of my work I was alerted to, or have stumbled upon:
“Still, though not quite successful on a philosophical level, it’s a lovely-looking strip, with judiciously chosen images representing the various ideas and idea-spouters and Kaczynski’s precise use of thicker blacks creating a memorable Easter Island sequence.”
— on Cartoon Dialectics by Sean T. Collins
“[…]another one of his psychoeconomic fables, one where his trademark mounting sense of disconnection and dread wind their way through several symbolically engrossing episodes[…]”
— on MOME 11 by Sean T. Collins
“[…] incredibly well-written but not-very-inspiringly illustrated […]”
— on MOME 11 by Chris Estey
“Like Eightball with footnotes! (or at least, in this case, an actual bibliography.)”
— on Cartoon Dialectics
“The artist-author, like his protagonist, manages, without premeditation or planning, to discover some profound truths encoded within a corporate brand finally produced as a 21st century cave painting of blood, sweat and semiotic design at the end of a trail of excrement and allergens.”
— on MOME 11
both quotes by Chris Nakashima-Brown
The latest volume of MOME should have hit the stores on Wednesday. Volume 12 is pretty great. It’s got stories by David B., Olivier Schrauwen, Dash Shaw, Killoffer & many others. I only have a measly 4 pages in this issue. Each page is a stand alone meditation on noise, sound, silence and other auditory phenomena… inspired by loud neighbors, Jane Jacobs, Merzbow and tight deadlines.
A couple reviews have already hit the interwebs. Here’s one by Jog and one by Rob Clough (the site seems to be down at the moment). Get yer copy at your neighborhood comics store, or direct from the publisher.
I suppose I should update this blog… It’s been a while!
I already wrote a little bit about this here, but this time the new issue of Mome is actually on the stands. My contribution is a 12 page story called “Million Year Boom.” Check out page 1 above.
A few reviews have appeared already: Sequart (as part of a monster of a review of Momes 6-11), Jog, ADD, Copacetic (scroll all the way down), and ComicMix. Get a copy at your local comic-book store, or direct from Fantagraphics.
The term ‘Momed’ was coined by Gabrielle Bell (if I remember correctly) and it refers to MOME contributing cartoonists who, in an effort to meet their deadlines, forgo normal social behavior and lock themselves up for extended periods of time in a desperate attempt to make comics at a highly depressing rate of speed… In short, I’ve been Momed over the last few weeks, which is why this blog has been very quiet lately. But my next MOME contribution is done and so this blog can resume it’s semi regular posting schedule.
panel from Mome 10
Speaking of MOME, the current issue (MOME Vol. 10, Winder/Spring 2008) is out now. This time I contributed a four page story called Phase Transition. It’s a kind of a prequel for the story I just finished. It wasn’t intended that way originally. As I worked on the MOME Vol. 11 story it slowly became clear that the main character from Phase Transition should play a role in it.
In addition to the story, I’m also the subject of an interview conducted by Gary Groth. I was very nervous before this interview because I’ve read so many of his interviews over the years and he’s definitely one of my favorite interviewers. It turned OK in the end and the conversation was pretty interesting even if I didn’t always give a good or coherent answer. Apparently Fantagraphics will be putting up all the MOME interviews online at some point, so look for it to appear there soon. I’m sure I’ll link it here when it goes up.
SPX 2007 was one of the funnest comics shows I’ve ever attended. There are tons of SPX reports out there already, so I’ll refrain from going into to much detail. My favorite acquisitions:
Yuichi Yokoyama’s New Engineering was easily the book I most anticipated. I’d been reading about it online for some time. Finally getting my hands on this book was very satisfying. The book’s mixture of absurd combat and surreal construction projects did not disappoint. I will have more to say about it in the near future.
Papercutter #6. This little anthology is getting better with each volume. This issue didn’t disappoint. Alec (Phase 7) Longstreth, who also edited it, delivers a solid story that could easily make this Phase 7 #12.5. Ken Dahl spews out a Gordon Smalls stream of consciousness rant. I kept thinking it was set in a parallel world where John Zerzan was not only a cartoonist but funny too. Julia Wertz and Laura Park collaborate on a sweet story of youthful sexual awakening… er… or something like that.
My favorite mini of the show was Sarah Glidden’sHow to Understand Israel in Sixty Days or Less. It’s dense, understated and well paced. Well worth whatever she was charging for it.
And last, but not least, Acorn Reindeer’s new mini The Karaoke Encryption combines a foul mouthed vegetable Tintin with Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.
Other highlights included being on my first comics ‘theory’ panel, signing copies of Mome with Mome-mate Eleanor Davis, talking J.G. Ballard with Andy Hartzell and many others too numerous to mention.
As I write this the new issue of Mome should either already be in stores, or will arrive shortly. It’s already available via Fantagraphics here. My story in this issue is nine pages long and is titled 10,000 Years. Unlike the story in the previous issue, this one is brand new and created explicitly for the anthology.
A lot of themes you may have seen in my Trans books have been sort smashed into a single dream like narrative. Zombies, Mars, Psychoanalysis, Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, Advertising, Consumerism, the Future and the (im)possibility of utopia, they’re all in there one way or another.