In a short time Anne Koyama, the publisher of Koyama Press, has made quite an impact in independent comics.
by David Hains
It’s a recent development; in 2007 she began to publish art a variety of art projects (The latest being Aaron Leighton’s Spirit City Toronto) and since then branched into comics.
TCAF 2010 came with recognition for the work Koyama Press was doing. Michael Deforge, one of the first cartoonists (Edited: originally this indicated Deforge was first, but that was Chris Hutsul. Apologies for the error.) published by Koyama, won the Doug Wright award for Best Emerging Talent.
Koyama took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about how she got into comics, which upcoming cartoonists she thinks you should check out and comments on which cartoonist’s Kung Fu skills scare her.
For more on Koyama, check out this recent interview done at Avoid The Future.
Thanks for taking the time to do this Anne.
It’s my pleasure.
You have a background in film and as far as I understand didn’t really get into comics until recently. How did you get into comics and what is it that you found compelling about them?
As a kid I read and loved Little Lulu, Nancy, Archie, Peanuts and some superhero comics. My uncle had Pogo comics so they were around too. I didn’t read them again until Calvin and Hobbes came out.
I got back into comics because I found and loved Michael DeForge’s art and when I approached him to work together, we decided to publish his LOSE comic.
I credit him with introducing me to the work of a lot of current comic creators.
I really like what a lot of indie comic artists are doing these days. It’s the art that attracts me but the writing has to be good too.
It’s interesting you mention Nancy, Lulu and Calvin and Hobbes, because in the Koyama Press comics I get a sense of spirited playfulness similar to those influences. But there’s also an undercurrent of adult self-doubt and anxiety in a few KP comics. Is there a particular style or resonance you’re looking for when you publish?
I like autobiographical stories partly because the life of a visual artist can be a very solitary and potentially lonely one. It’s always interesting to me to see how different people choose to show that to their readers.
I like a lot of different styles as evidenced by the range of artists I’ve worked with but nice graphics, bright colour and most of all, a good sense of humour is key.
Comics don’t always have to be funny for me, I actually found some of LOSE #2 by Michael DeForge quite poignant and anyone who is reading Laura Park’s comics about the loss of her beloved cat Lewis should be taking out stock in Kleenex!
Oh, I know! Park’s comics about Lewis have been so sad, touching and well done and everybody should check those out.
In previous posts on his blog Dustin Harbin wrote how thrilled he was to be published by someone who ‘cares more about art than money’ and that this altruism and support was life-affirming. You obviously hope that readers get exposed to interesting, great creators but what do you hope creators get out of KP?
I hope that the artists gain some exposure and income that may have eluded them otherwise.
There are so many undiscovered and unappreciated artists out there, not only in comics.
If my project with an artist can bring them to the attention of a more established publisher, gallery or patron, all the better.
This is beginning to happen and I have to say, it’s pretty satisfying to see it unfold.
I’m sure seeing the recognition and respect Michael Deforge has earned is particularly satisfying.
Yes, absolutely, and not only because he’s so talented. He’s one of the nicest, most considerate people I know.
And he chats with me at 2a.m. Regularly.
In keeping with your desire to get more exposure, you recently teamed up with AdHouse Books, No Brow Press and Malachi Ward to form AdDistro, a joint boutique distributor. How did this come about and why was this good fit?
Chris Pitzer who owns AdHouse Books chose to distribute Nobrow Press, Koyama Press and Malachi Ward together under AdDistro.
I love Nobrow’s titles and Malachi Ward’s work is incredibly good too.
I’m really happy to be under AdDistro’s umbrella.
You have a lot of upcoming projects, including ones by Chris Eliopolous, Hellen Jo, Canadians Steve Wolfhard, Wowee Zonk, Deforge and honorary/wannabe Canadian Dustin Harbin. What’s the process been like working with and socializing with these young cartoonists?
It still amazes me that I can meet an artist once and then work with them mostly via email to produce a book. I’ve corresponded with Hellen for some time but haven’t met her in person yet.
Without exception, it’s gone really smoothly and I love to get the artists out as much as I can to meet other artists and share books with them.
A couple of those aforementioned projects are right around the corner. Can you talk about what we can expect and how you feel about them?
Dustin Harbin’s ‘DIARY COMICS No. 1’ is a great little book with a fancy die-cut cover and more crosshatching than you can believe. I’d have priced it higher (it’s a steal at a mere $6.00) but Dustin is taller than me and knows Kung Fu so I acquiesced on this point.
I am also excited about Tin Can Forest’s book ‘Baba Yaga And The Wolf’. Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek are talented animators and this is their second book. Drawn & Quarterly published ‘Pohadky’, the first book.
I found ‘Cat Rackham’ online some time ago and loved the character. Local artist Robin Nishio kept telling me to check out Steve Wolfhard’s work which is when I put together that Steve was the artist behind Cat Rackham.
I can’t wait to introduce the character to a wider audience.
Yeah, it’s probably wise not to test Harbin’s Kung Fu skills.
What are the ballpark release dates for those three projects?
Dustin’s book will be ready for SPX, September 11.
Tin Can Forest’s book will be ready for Word On The Street, September 26th.
The Cat Rackham book will hopefully be ready by year’s end.
Who are some young, upcoming comics creators that haven’t been mentioned that you would want people to check out?
Alex Perkins, Britt Wilson, Vicki Nerino, Phil McAndrew, Jesse Jacobs, Jesse Moynihan, Lizz Hickey, Ryan Pequin, Ryan Snook, Adam Bourret, Mickey Zacchilli, Becky and Frank who do TinyKittenTeeth are all super talented.
This is off the top of my head but there are many, many more.
Thanks again Anne.