Several months ago I received a copy of A Very Kraftwerk Summer by Christopher Hutsul, published by Koyama Press. This comic is awesome! Like all Koyama publications it’s lovingly presented. I have to mention the Japanese wood vaneer paper, screen printed cover. It’s pretty unusual. Christopher Hutsul’s art is great! It’s engaging and has a nice pencil drawn feel and simple use of colour (black, white and red), which i immediately liked.
At it’s heart, AVKS is a coming of age story. It’s about a young kid (Geoffrey) who spends an unforgettable summer with the band Kraftwerk. It’s hilarious to see Kraftwerk, who are usually restrained, cold and robotic, hanging out, playing arcade games and letting off fireworks.
The story narrated by Geoffrey when he’s older, Wonder Years style, which Chrisopher Hutsul does with tongue in cheek, but he manages give the story an emotional ark in only 18 pages! The end is really quite touching. Also, there’s a DEVO cameo which is worth cost of this book alone. I really recommend this zine, everyone I’ve seen read it finishes it with smile.
You can get it here.
Here’s a bit more bonus Koyama related stuff. I had an interview with Annie Koyama, which was originally printed in our latest beef knuckles, issue 5. It’s pretty me much waxing lyrical about how great Koyama Press are. Which they are. Enjoy
I first heard about Koyama Press last via the art blog, Dirt Palace. They had blogged about Michael Deforge’s comic, Lose. After reading the article, I bought issue one and was blown away! It also got me thinking about independent publishers. I figured, where there’s smoke there’s fire, so I began looking into Deforge’s publisher, Koyama Press, and was inspired by what I found.
Koyama Press is one of the most exciting, innovative independent publishers in Canada today, ushering a new generation of comic and fine artists! Based in Toronto, they were established in 2007 with the idea of publishing and promoting emerging artists’ work. Preserving the artist’s integrity and identity seem to be at the heart of Koyama’s philosophy. The artists producing work for Koyama are at the forefront of emerging styles. They come on the back of a particularly rich creative period for the city of Toronto, which has now become a major creative hub in North America. The funding Koyama provides artists allows them to take the next step and put real production values into their work. Koyama books have depth, humour and strong visual appeal.
Since reading Lose 1 and 2, I’ve posted a few times on our blog about Koyama press, so you can imagine how happy I was when Annie Koyama, founder of Koyama Press, contacted us! She was also kind enough to let me interview her!
BK: I’ve read your résumé; producer for documentaries, films and TV commercials, set painter for the ballet and opera and volunteer probation officer! With such a varied range of jobs, what made you decide you wanted publish art books and comics?
AK: It was not a conscious decision. After years of ill health, I decided to try something new and chose to sponsor a few artists so that they could have a product to sell. Ideally, this income would enable them to spend more time on their art.
That led to working with Trio Magnus, a Toronto collective of Clayton Hanmer, Aaron Leighton and Steve Wilson on the first book.
The response was good and so I just continued from there.
I should say that I have no publishing background whatsoever and now have a totally new appreciation for established publishers.
BK: I was amazed when you told me you run Koyama by yourself! Are you able to work on Koyama projects exclusively?
AK: Yes, it’s 24/7 now. I have a little bookeeping help and have just engaged an artist called Jamie Q. (http://jamieq.net/) to help me with some administrative and publicity work.
If you see me walking anywhere with my trusty backpack you can be sure it’s full of books or zines to show people.
BK: How easy was it getting Koyama’s first release, Trio Magnus: Equally Superior, published? And what was the biggest difficulty getting Koyama Press up and running? Is it true you sold your car to get the first book published??
AK: Getting it printed was easy. Getting the book out to stores? Not so easy.
I schlepped the book everywhere after we launched it at Design Festa in Tokyo in 2007.
As a small press publisher with one title to my name, it was pretty much sold on consignment at first. What I had going for me was how attractive and well produced the book was.
I’ve often said that I’d rather poke my eye out than do any kind of sales but the books sell themselves. I’ve found that you either like the art in the book or you don’t so I’m never offended when a certain retailer takes one title over another.
That is inevitable when the range of books and zines I have is so divergent.
The biggest difficulty in staying in business is the unfortunate series of bookstore closures especially here in Toronto.
I am trying to get out to more book fairs and comic cons to show and sell the books.
BK: The list of talented artists making work for Koyama is quite amazing! I noticed you’re even planning to release a comic by Hellen Jo (she’s fantastic). How did you meet the artists on Koyama? Did you find them or did they find you?
AK: Hellen is so talented, I’m really looking forward to working with her, not least because she may be the only person who swears more than I do.
I am an insomniac and often look at new work in the quiet, early hours of the morning. I have found some amazing artists that way.
Sometimes someone will approach me and their work will blow me away.
Like Jesse Jacobs. http://onemillionmouths.blogspot.com/
BK: Where have you found the greatest response to the work you’ve produced? At home or abroad? And how has the internet helped find you a fan base?
AK: Initially, the books and zines were mostly available in Toronto and places like The Beguiling and Magic Pony have been very helpful in promoting and selling my books.
The internet has definitely played a large role in spreading the word about the books.
And, I will be forever thankful for the comic bloggers who have mentioned the comics I’ve published.
So now, I get sales from all over the world.
BK: What excites you right now about the comic, graphic arts scene? Are there any artists or publishers that inspire your own work?
AK: The artists out there inspiring me (in addition to those I’ve worked with so far) are too numerous to mention. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I have such a long list of draft picks ready to publish.
I love what Alvin Buenaventura published, PictureBox, AdHouse, Fantagraphics, Sparkplug and others.
It was wonderful to meet Chris Oliveros at TCAF as I’ve admired Drawn & Quarterly for a long time.
BK: I read that you’ve struck up a distribution deal with AdHouse Books, as have a few other independent publishers including London based publishers Nobrow. It’s interesting to seeing such like minded projects come together. I really like the work Nobrow are putting out. Were you a fan before the arrangement?
AK: I was fortunate to meet Chris Pitzer (founder of AdHouse Books Ed.) at this year’s TCAF and when he decided to distribute Nobrow Press’ work, he thought the Koyama Press books might be a good fit. I love Nobrow’s catalogue and the prints that they make with their artists. To be in their company is pretty amazing for a relative newbie like me. I’m very grateful to Chris for that opportunity. So yes, I was a huge fan.
BK: There seems to be so much great stuff coming out of Toronto right now. Can you give us an idea of what it’s like being part of that scene? Is there a sense of community amongst artists?
AK: I work with fine artists as well as comic artists and while those two worlds don’t intersect a lot, there is no end to how many local people are doing really interesting work. I know that the comics community in Toronto is pretty tight and much of that credit goes to Peter Birkemoe and Chris Butcher of The Beguiling (an amazing comic book store ed.).
Not only are we lucky enough to have one of the best comic stores in the world in our city, they actively and constantly promote local artists as well as putting on the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) which is now an annual show. Great for creators, publishers and fans alike.
BK: Can you recommend your favourite place in Toronto for any of our readers planning a visit?
AK: For comic fans, The Beguiling is a no-brainer.
On any given day in this city there are so many cultural events you can attend, some of them for free.
We have great restaurants due to the multi-cultural make up of Toronto.
We’re getting a little more bike friendly but have a ways to go.
I personally like walking the alleyways of Toronto, where you’ll find some very cool street art if you look.
BK: Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about starting up an independent publishing company of their own?
AK: Ha! Have a rich uncle!
But seriously, you have to do it for love because you probably aren’t going to make a lot of money, be prepared to work your butt off and only publish stuff you love.
BK: What have you got planned for Koyama Press in the future? Can we expect any other releases this year?
AK: Aaron Leighton’s ‘Spirit City Toronto’ is now out.
Dustin Harbin’s ‘DIARY COMICS No. 1’ will be out in time for SPX. Steve Wolfhard is working on ‘Cat Rackham’, and Michael Deforge will have another mini-comic by year’s end.
Tin Can Forest will have ‘Baba Yaga And The Wolf’ and ‘Wowee Zonk 3’ will be out in the next month or so.
Fine artist Mark Laliberté will have his ‘Grey Supreme’ book out by October too.
Animator/street artist Diego Bergia will have his ‘Lepos Arcade Project’ book launch and show this November at Magic Pony.
BK: Thanks for your time Annie!
A lot of the books she mentioned are available now. I just bought the new Michael DeFoge comic Spotting Dear, Dustin Harbin’s Diary Comic’s and Wowee Zonk #3.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of Beef Knuckles issue 5, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org