Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dorian Lafferre and #CCAD COMICS

"I was really, really into vampires as a kid," offers Dorian Lafferre by way of explaining his response when I asked him about his earliest memory of creating art.  The drawing in question, done when he was in kindergarten, depicted a scene of  Dracula standing next to a piano played by a  pair of floating severed hands. 
It was, presumably, Dorian's interest in drawing, not vampires, that led him to attend the Columbus College of Art and Design. "I saw a lot of the work coming from students at CCAD and was impressed," he says. "At that point I figured that if I were ever crazy enough to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a college, CCAD would be the one. After high school I failed a few classes in community college while working full-time in a grocery store, and eventually decided to pursue a career in drawing at the one college I ever wanted to attend."
He has not regretted that choice and offered high praise for his alma mater, "CCAD has some extremely supportive and skilled faculty and alumni. I got the pleasure of studying directly under incredible artists that I look up to to this day, like Adam Osgood, Brian Ewing, Tam Peterson, CF Payne, Christopher Canyon, and so many more. My love for storytelling was cultivated by the excellent liberal arts professors, especially Robert Loss, Leslie Jenike, and Jessica Hey. From the very beginning, I expected to gain a lot of experience and knowledge in storytelling through art - and I wasn’t disappointed."
Dorian is a native and life long resident of Columbus, where, he says, "...if all goes well, I’ll live...until I die. It’s the perfect medium between bustling big city and cheap small town - and the arts scene is growing like crazy! Also, we have great food trucks."
A career in art wasn't exactly his first choice, however.  As he told me, "During high school, I was pretty disenchanted with any career choice other than becoming a rock star."  It's not hard to see where that ambition came from: "My dad is a guitarist, still playing gigs around Columbus, and he encouraged my growth as a musician and supplied an array of instruments throughout my life."
Both his parents, who split while Dorian was a baby, have, in his words, "... have been super supportive of my creative life in every way....My mom started collecting my drawings since I was in kindergarten, and she gave both financial and moral support as I attended CCAD."
Graduating from CCAD in the class of 2014, it hasn't taken Dorian long to make his mark on the local comics scene. #CCAD Comics is 60 page digital anthology of comics by students, faculty and alumni of the school. A print edition is in the works. "I’m working on it right now," he says. "I’m running into a couple issues with the print file not fitting the printer’s standards, but after working that out and approving a proof copy, it will be available as a nice big color paperback. Individual contributors will be selling copies, and I’m looking into making a big premier at SPACE 2015 and seeing if some stores in the Columbus area will stock a few copies." 
 I asked Dorian to explain the genesis of the project, as well as the criteria he used in deciding which stories to include in the book. "#CCADComics came out of the staggering realization that immensely talented comics creators came out of CCAD, yet there had been no formal recognition of any kind recognizing that talent. Several efforts have been made to celebrate comics, notably the MIX symposium directed by Robert Loss and the Crafting Your Hustle event held by Laurenn McCubbin. But when it came to collecting the comics work by students, either in a book or in a gallery setting, there was nothing. I had heard some stories of the director of exhibitions having a weird bias against comics and illustration, and all the pro-comics faculty and staff were super busy with other projects, so instead of waiting for permission I decided to make an anthology and self-publish it. DIY or die!
"Knowing I would need help, I asked my fellow comics creators Andrew Peña, Hannah Ploechl, Mike Laughead, and Colleen Clark to co-edit and spread the word. Without their help, I definitely would have ripped my own head off out of sheer stress! Submissions were open to all CCAD students, past and present (Peña made an especially awesome call-for-submissions poster). After collecting nearly 30 submissions, we read them all and picked the 21 strongest works (in our collective opinion) to include in the final book.
"Any and all submissions 10 pages in length or less were accepted, regardless of content or theme. I just asked people to not submit anything overtly pornographic or exploitative, and everyone seemed to understand that and respect it. There’s some harsh language and minor cartoon violence in the final book, but nothing too extreme."
I then asked if he had any plans for future editions of #CCAD Comics, and he told me, "My mind is already dancing around future anthology possibilities, but I want to open up future projects to the countless non-CCAD artists I have the pleasure of knowing. My hope is that some other CCAD student will carry the torch and make the next CCAD comics happen - so if you’re reading this and you’re interested, let’s talk!"
As to other future plans, such as whether he intends to pursue a career in comics or perhaps some other area of art, he's not so sure, "Honestly, I don’t know! I grew up reading Spawn and Bone and Dragon Ball manga, and my love for the visual arts was rekindled by Watchmen and Asterios Polyp and Love & Rockets. Comics have been a big presence in my life and a giant influence on my aesthetic sensibilities, and I think the medium is capable of telling an infinite number of compelling stories. At the same time, I would love to create album artwork or merchandise for bands I love, and I’ve been enjoying the animation work I’ve been doing with Rad Fortress lately. I’m too scatterbrained to stick with just one thing!
"After observing the strenuous lives of some moderately successful freelance and entrepreneurial illustrators, I realized that I enjoy life far more when I’m not worried about where my next paycheck is going to come from. I enjoy my day job, and while I plan on taking some odd art jobs and commissions here and there, the life of a full-time freelancer just isn’t for me. That said, I just graduated college a month ago, so who knows what the future holds?
"You can see some of the crazy stuff Rad Fortress is working on here:"
Dorian is also a contributor to the recently released Weinland Park Storybook Project.  Of his involvement in that project, he says, "Jean Pitman, head of the youth programs at the Wexner Center, had been involved with several community service projects in the Weinland Park area over the years and collected stories from the neighborhood’s residents. As further service to the community, she got a ton of local comics creators to illustrate these stories for a beautiful limited-release book available only to contributors and Weinland Park residents. The stories range from solemn to humorous, from both young and old members of the community.
"I was put in contact with Jean through my portfolio instructor at CCAD, and she had me illustrate two one-page stories from a couple teenage residents of Weinland Park. Jean’s enthusiasm and hard work unified the local comics community, and gave a voice to a marginalized neighborhood that had seen a wealth of untold stories. To top it all off, I’m now in a book with Julian Dassai, Michael Neno, Lora Innes, Sandy Plunkett, and other comics geniuses, and all of our work is in the permanent collection of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. This is, by far, the coolest creative project I have ever been a part of!
"You can read the whole book and get more info here: "
I'd like to thank Dorian for taking the time to answer my questions.  More information about #CCAD Comics can be found at

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cartoon Carnival at Wild Goose Creative Throughout June

photo by Max Ink
One of Columbus, Ohio's most revered native sons meets the current generation of Central Ohio cartoonists, figuratively, of course, throughout the month of June as the walls of Wild Goose Creative on Summit Street play host to the Cartoon Carnival, an exhibit co-presented by the Thurber House in co-operation with local cartoonists' group Sunday Comix. The show features reproductions of classic Thurber cartoons displayed along side modern day re-interpretations of same by Thurber's twenty-first century spiritual successors.
The event commemorates the Thurber House's thirtieth year of operation.  The official press release quotes Katie Poole, who co-ordinated the event for the Thurber House, as saying,"We are really excited to collaborate with these two wonderful organizations. It’s a great opportunity to showcase Thurber’s cartoons in both their original form and through the eyes of local artists; something that we haven’t done before.”
In an informal (though no one said it was off the record) conversation with me on Friday night, Sunday Comix founder Max Ink stated, while admitting he hadn't actually done the research to back up this claim, that he believes this may be the first time that the Thurber estate has permitted an exhibit of Thurber's work in Columbus outside the confines of the Thurber House.
The Cartoon Carnival runs through June 30.  A Gallery Night artists' reception will be held on Thursday, June 19 at 6 p.m.  This event is free and open to all who wish to attend.  Wild Goose Creative is located at 2491 Summit Street. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

CAPA Movie Series Kicks Off 2014 With Superman: The Movie

Prior to 1978, live action adaptations of super-hero comics where relegated to the realms of Saturday morning serials and, later, television.  By the nature of such outlets,  these efforts were low budget affairs with special effects that were crude even by the standards of the times, and were for the most part aimed at an audience consisting mainly of children.  The one exception, the 1966 Batman film, isn't much of an exception at all, as it was based on the wildly popular TV show, and was even more of a broad comedy than the series itself.  There is 1951's Superman and the Mole Men, however ,despite its getting a theatrical release, that film is essentially the pilot for the Adventures of Superman TV series.
Superman: The Movie was the first big budget, feature length super-hero film with state of the art special effects aimed at a more general audience that made at least an attempt to treat its subject matter seriously.  The production was a bit of a gamble at the time, but it paid off.  Without the success of Superman, and to a lesser extent its three sequels, it is doubtful that we would have had the spate of super-hero blockbusters that have become a staple of the summer movie season over the past decade and a half. 
What, you may well be asking yourself, am I doing writing about a nearly forty year old film on a blog ostensibly about comics in Columbus, Ohio?  Well, my friend, here in Columbus we love our old movies.  One of our most cherished summer traditions is the CAPA Summer Movie Series.  Each June through August, a variety of classic films are screened in the beautiful, historic Ohio Theater in the heart of Downtown Columbus.  It just so happens that this year's series kicks off this coming weekend with a showing of Superman: The Movie
The series has an especially strong line-up this year.  Superman is followed up by the 1982 screwball comedy My Favorite Year, starring Peter O'Toole and Mark Linn Baker, better known as "Cousin Larry" on ABC's Perfect Strangers, on Wednesday, June 11, and the Humphrey Bogart film noir classic The Maltese Falcon on the following Friday and Saturday. 
Other highlights include legendary child star Shirley Temple in The Little Princess, the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnez comedy The Long, Long Trailer, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, two James Bond films (The Spy Who Loved Me and You Only Live Twice), a trio of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers (North By Northwest, The Lady Vanishes and Dial M For Murder), the first remake of A Star Is Born starring Judy Garland, and a double feature of Christopher Guest directed "mockumentaries" (Waiting for Guffman and Best In Show).
Show times for Superman: The Movie at the Ohio Theater are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $4.00 ($3.50 for Seniors) and you can buy a strip of ten tickets, good for any show all summer, for $25.00. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bissette to Demonstrate "How To Make A Monster" at Billy Ireland Museum

As I reported last month, on the original Gutter Talk blog (hereafter to be referred to as "Gutter Talk Prime"), the Ohio State University's Wexner Center for the Arts, in co-operation with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, has invited Stephen R. Bissette, renowned artist for much of Alan Moore's historic run on Swamp Thing and creator of the short-lived independent comic Tyrant in the mid-90s, to give a presentation entitled Swamp Thing and the Birth, Life and Death of the Comics Code Authority in the Wex's Film/Video theater on Tuesday, April 29 at 7 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public, and there's a Facebook event page where you can RSVP if you're planning to attend.
In addition, the Billy Ireland Museum announced on its blog on Wednesday, the evening prior to his Comics Code seminar, Monday, April 28, Bissette will present "How To Make A Monster: Cartooning Master Class with Stephen R. Bissette" in which he will demonstrate his method for rendering dinosaurs, zombies and monsters, in the museum's Will Eisner Seminar Room.  Seating for the event is limited, with only thirty slots available.  Cost of admission is $15 for the general public and $10 for OSU students with BuckID.  Interested parties can register at

SPACE Weekend Events

The fifteenth annual Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, a.k.a. SPACE, takes place this weekend.  In addition to the main event, there are the traditional pre- and post- show parties tonight and tomorrow. 
The weekend kicks off this evening at 7:30 with a gathering at The Laughing Ogre comics shop at 4258 N. High Street in Clintonville.   There'll be free food and drink and many of the SPACE exhibitors will be there, giving you an opportunity to meet and get to know them without them trying to sell you something.
Saturday night, the action moves South down High Street to Kafe Kerouac at 2250 N. High for the After SPACE Comics Reading and Karoake Party, which, we can assume, is exactly what it says on the tin.  We're to be treated to some of the cartoonists exhibiting at the show reading from their work and then perhaps going on to publicly embarass themselves with their drunken rendition of "MacArthur Park." 
The show itself runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center located at 4900 Sinclair Road.  Admission is $5.00 for one day and 8 bucks for the whole weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The Outbreak" Breaks Out

Artwork by Micheal Neno
JL (Jen) Smither is a local writer making her first foray into the world of sequential storytelling with the new web comic The Outbreak, which went live on the Wild, Wild Web earlier today.  Her artistic collaborator on this project is Michael Neno, a name that should be well known to Columbus comics cognoscenti as the creator of The Signifiers, as well as many other titles in his more than two decades of writing, drawing and self-publishing comics.
I'm going to rely heavily on Jen's own words for the rest of this post, as she speaks quite eloquently for herself and her work.   On her blog, she describes the basic premise of the strip thusly:
"While still recovering from the trauma of World War II, England endures an outbreak of ravenous, wolf-like carnivores called lupanoids. The beasts take over the countryside, dramatically altering the landscape and culture. No one seems to understand where they came from or why. All that is known for sure is that the lupanoids aren’t wolves and aren’t humans, and they appear to never have been either. Popular opinion is divided on whether they should (or can) be exterminated or whether humankind should learn to live alongside the lupanoids. Two main groups make up either side of this debate. The Institute for Co-Existence, which is just a refurbished version of the war-time Institute for Peace, is a government-funded research institute that employs chemists, biologists, mathematicians, sociologists, and other scientists all working toward a common goal: to establish a new normal society in which humans and the lupanoids co-exist without fear. On the other hand, The Confrontation is a military-style group that eliminates lupanoids wherever the soliders find them.
After surviving the Blitz and other stresses of the war, many English citizens found the lupanoid Outbreak too much to bear. Many have left the country, fleeing to America and other countries where they believe they’ll be free of the lupanoid threat. Those who remain live mostly barricaded in rooms with bricked-over windows, dependent on The Confrontation for transportation, and with little opportunity to venture outside without fear of attack.
But they make do, those who remain in England. Because that’s their duty to their country and families: to make do."
 In a later post, describing the genesis of the project, she says:
"These stories that make up The Outbreak, including the story in “Monster at the Institute,” began as short stories that I wrote to take a break from my novel. I thought there was a slim chance I’d ever get “Monster” and the other stories in a literary journal (which does take some of the pressure off, allowing me to write a little more freely than I might otherwise). But then my husband mentioned that they might make good comics…"
When I asked her in an e-mail how she came to work with Michael Neno, she responded:
"After I got a script together with the significant help of my comics writing group (which was Max Ink, Travis Horseman, and Ken Eppstein at the time), the group also helped me put together a call for artists. Actually, the call for artists for was a different, shorter script that I intended to launch first. I distributed to call to the Sunday Comix group and to some people I'd met at previous SPACEs and to friends of friends. I got a lot of great responses, but Michael's really impressed me. He seemed to get exactly what I was going for, so I was pretty sure we'd be able to communicate well. Instead of the original, shorter script, I asked Michael if he'd be interested in doing this longer one instead--I first thought I might use different artists for every story, and I wanted to take advantage of his skill for a longer piece. He agreed, and produced some great artwork. He's so easy to work with, and I'm so happy with the way this turned out, that I already have him working on that original shorter script now! "
The first story of The Outbreak, "Monster At The Institute", runs six issues, and future chapters will appear each Thursday for the next five weeks.  "Michael and I are already working on the next story," Jen told me in her e-mailed response, "...but there's no ETA on that yet. But people should follow my blog for updates on that kind of stuff."
To read the first installment of "Monster At The Institute, point your browser here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Introducing Gutter Talk: Columbus

Columbus: The city that I have called home for the past two and one-tenth decades.  Capital of the State of Ohio. Birthplace of James Thurber and Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers.  Setting for the TV series Family Ties (although its readily apparent to anyone who lives here that nobody connected with the series had ever bothered to visit the city or do even cursory research). Home of THE Ohio State University, the National Hockey League's Blue Jackets, Major League Soccer's Crew, and frequent David Letterman guest Jack Hanna. 
The city is also home to a vibrant, diverse and ever expanding community of comics artists, writers, and readers.
It is that last item which we are gathered here to confront today.
For nearly five years now, I have been writing a somewhat sporadically updated blog about comics called Gutter Talk.  I've been thinking recently about getting more in depth into coverage of the local comics scene and decided that it might be best if I spin off a new blog devoted solely to that topic.
So that is what I did and that is what you are now reading.
This is pretty much the perfect week to launch a blog about comics in Columbus.  This weekend will see the fifteenth annual occurrence of the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, known to its close friends as SPACE.  The show will be, as always, accompanied by the inevitable debuts of several new comics by a variety of local talent.
Now, if this blog is to be a success, I'm going to need stuff to write about.  Thus, I am asking all comics writers, artists and other interested parties to forward to me any news, rumors, gossip, tips or tidbits, either about their own projects or others.   You can send them to me at and please put "Gutter Talk Columbus" in the subject line, if you would be so kind.
See you at SPACE this weekend.