Imagine Your Story- RiverCon Interview with Dan Gorman and Josh Nealis

Welcome back to our RiverCon interview series! RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our summer reading inspired RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” great local comic artists and authors from home!

This week is our final week of interviews and I have not one, but two comic creators for you- Dan Gorman and Josh Nealis. Dan has done sequential work for various comics, including AC Comics and Dark Horse, and he also creates weekly cartoons for the Akron RubberDucks. Josh is an artist and owner of Cutthroat Comics and Publishing.

Dan Gorman Image from http://www.dangormanart.com/
Josh Nealis Image courtesy of Josh Nealis

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?     

Dan: I always had the ability to draw even as a very small kid. I originally thought I’d be a syndicated cartoonist, which still might happen, some things are in the works. When I was 12 I fell in love with Spider-man Comics and it was at that point that I decided I wanted to be a comic book Illustrator.

Josh: I had previously been in a heavy metal band. We decided to call it quits. Afterwards, I knew I needed to still be creative. I started a review website for movies, video games, and comedy specials. After about a year or so, it wasn’t fulfilling my creative needs. I had always wanted to write a book, and an idea popped into my head and I ran with it. That book became, Stuffed Squirrels & Porcelain Angels. Once the floodgates opened all these ideas started pouring out. So I decided to do all of it. Books, comics, children’s books, even a self help book. I write whatever pops in my head.

Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?       

Dan: My Mom always bought me Archie’s when I was a kid, but it was The Amazing Spider-man that captured my attention the most. I also loved and still love Peter Porker Spider-Ham and Anything drawn by Mike Zeck. His work on Spidey and Captain America is my favorite.

Josh: As far as specifically comics, I loved the X-Men. I had toys, the comics, watched the shows. I mostly stuck to Marvel, but I do have a soft spot for DC, as well as some mid 90s Image franchises like Spawn, and The Maxx, and WildC.A.T.S. And the always popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, although I never had the comics.

Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?       

Dan: Storytelling helps us deal with issues we ourselves are experiencing. Both as a creator and reader the medium of comic books has inspired me to overcome situations in my own life. When I see my heroes are in trouble but fight to defeat whatever challenge they face, it gives me the confidence I can also defeat my challenges. Whatever form storytelling takes.. whether its comics.. movies.. books.. video games.. whatever it is.. participating in that process.. from either side is therapeutic and cathartic. Stories are meaningful even if they aren’t true.

Josh: Well comics are great for learning how to read. It’s not overwhelming, or overly wordy. Plus you get the art with it. As an artist, writing comics is totally different from a novel. You get to collaborate and see your thoughts come to life right in front of you. Plus, you get two art forms wrapped into one. A well written story with colorful characters, and dramatic art, not only the images but the words and sound effects as well.


How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work? 

Dan: All of our modern heroes are influenced by mythology and folklore. Studying and reading about heroes from the past sparks the imagination. My original character, The Akron Knight, has influences from Greek and Roman mythology, modern day comics, and concepts from film and animation. All of those images and stories can be seen in the mythos of The Akron Knight. 

Josh: A lot of my work, has morals and meaning tied in with the story. I don’t often come right out and explain it to the reader. I let them figure out the point. A great story makes you think. Not just about what happened, but why. When you think about the fairy tales and mythology, etc, they are still popular for that reason. The themes stick with you. Depth makes a great story.

Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?   

Dan: I always gravitated towards Greek and Roman mythology. So many great stories and lessons to be learned in those tales. I don’t know that I can site just one as being my favorite.  They all kind of work together in my opinion.

Josh: I love Robin Hood. So much that my son is named after him. But, I love Greek mythology. I like religious mythology as well. King Arthur. Really anything like that has always interested me.

What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Dan: I don’t get to read a lot of stuff that I’m not currently working on.  That’s the catch 22 of being a busy creator.  If it’s not a script you are working on its difficult to find time to read other stuff. With that said, the only GN I sat down and read from start to finish this year was “Kringle” written by David Hayes and published by Source Point Press.  I drew the backup story. I will warn you, its not for kids. It’s a very adult-themed book. So certainly read it before you decide to let your children read it.  It could ruin Christmas for them for life lol.

Josh: Aside from my books and comics right? I read Mr. and Mrs. X. really liked that. Absolute Carnage was pretty cool. I am currently reading the Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles cross over. It’s pretty neat so far. I also started Saga recently. It’s very creative, but is for adults. Sorry kids.

Pencil drawing by Dan Gorman.

Thanks so much for following along with us here as we got to know some Ohio comic creators and artists just a little bit. I hope you have enjoyed reading these interviews as much as I have enjoyed conducting them!

Fingers crossed for an in-person panel one day in the future. Until then- don’t forget you can read stellar comics and graphic novels without ever leaving your home thanks to your library card and Hoopla! Happy reading and stay healthy.

Imagine Your Story- RiverCon Interview with Clare Kolat

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

Welcome back to our RiverCon interview series! RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our summer reading inspired RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” amazing local comic artists and authors from home!

This week we hear from Clare Kolat, a talented Cleveland native who is a spectacular comic creator, artist, and designer. Clare’s comics have been featured in Vagabond Comics, The Ohio City Tremont Observer, and Cleveland Scene Magazine. You can learn more about Clare and her work by visiting her website- just click here!

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Clare: Making my own stories and art always came naturally to me. I’ve found mountains of books and comics I made as a kid in my parents’ attic. Somewhere along the way, I realized that it was something I could keep doing as an adult, so I never stopped! 

Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?

Clare: While growing up in Mentor, my parents always got the News Herald, and for a time, they would include reprinted copies of old Spider-Man comics on Sundays. I would always grab the newspaper and shake out my comic to read first thing in the morning! I was also really into manga because of Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon.

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?

Clare: Stories teach us valuable lessons and let us escape to worlds outside our understanding. They let us explore, grow, and share experiences with others we would never have otherwise. I absolutely think graphic storytelling is important as well. It’s a highly accessible medium. Anyone can read comics. Even if you don’t necessarily understand the words, the art is there to guide you through the story. It is really unique in that way. Comics are for everyone. 

How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work?

Clare: I’ve always loved fantastical stories and magical worlds. Fairytales and mythology always gave me an exciting place to escape. They offer you a different perspective and an opportunity to find magic in the mundane.

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?

Clare: It’s so hard to pick one. I’ve really been getting into American folklore lately, especially stories about Appalachian cryptids and ghosts. I love the story of the Tailypo and did my own version for Vagabond Comics issue 9.

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Clare: Again, it’s hard to pick just one favorite, but to name a few Paper Girls, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, and Pilu of the Woods are all excellent.

Be sure to join me next Thursday morning for our final Imagine Your Story RiverCon interview! Stay safe and happy reading.

What to Read While You Wait for Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

Daughters of Erietown is Connie Schultz’s debut novel. It’s the story of Ellie and Brick McGinty, two rural Ohio teens whose lives were changed by an unplanned pregnancy. While Ellie and Brick learn to be a married couple in the 1950’s they also battle with the demons of their past. The young couple navigate societal norms, limited opportunities, and dreams deferred. They raise a middle-class family on a union job salary.  They watch their children grow up and forge their own paths in the world. It’s a quiet story, rich in character and it’s likely on your summer TBR list. You aren’t alone. So, while you wait for your library hold to come available, check out some of these generational stories.

~Megan

Imagine Your Story- RiverCon Interview with Tony Isabella

Tony Isabella walking the red carpet at the Black Lightning premiere event, Washington DC, 2018. Photo courtesy of Tony Isabella.

Welcome back to our RiverCon interview series! RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our summer reading inspired RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” amazing local comic artists and authors from home! Each Thursday morning from now until July 2nd you can read a new interview.

This week we hear from another fantastically talented Cleveland native, Tony Isabella. Tony is a comic book writer, editor, artist, and critic- notably creator of DC Comics’ first major African-American superhero, Black Lightning! You can check out his blog here or follow him on Twitter here.

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Tony: Fantastic Four Annual #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I was an avid comics reader in 1963, but at the age when people thought I should outgrow them. Then and now, I think comics are a terrific way to tell stories. When I bought FF Annual #1, it suddenly hit me that making comics was a job and it was one I wanted. Within a few years, I was teaching myself how to write comic books.

Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?

Tony: Batman was my first favorite, probably because my idea was that I could become Batman if I worked at it. My other favorites as a kid included Challengers of the Unknown (non-powered adventurers created by Jack Kirby) and Cosmo the Merry Martian (lovable strange aliens that traveled the solar system). But I read pretty much any comic book I could get my hands on.

Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?

Tony: Histories tell us what happened. Stories tell us why. I believe comics exercise our thought processes on several levels. The words add context to the pictures. The pictures force us to fill in what happens between the panels in our mind. So we engage the readers on the literary and the visual levels.
 
How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work?

Tony: They’ve never been a noticeable influence in my work, probably because so many comics creators have gone to that particular well. My biggest influences come from the newspapers and magazines that I read and the world I observe.

Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?


Tony: Not a favorite per se, but a type. I like folk tales and such in which a protagonist contends with someone much more powerful than them and bests them. 

What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Tony: I have three: Goodbye: A Story of Suicide, Superman Smashes the Klan and The Golden Age Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett – The Pre-War Years Omnibus.

A huge thank you to Tony for participating on our Imagine Your Story interview series here!

Image from Hoopla.

If you have never read any Black Lightning comics, I recommend heading over to Hoopla and starting with Tony’s 2018 Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands series- you can click here to jump straight to issues #1-6. The story addresses issues of police brutality, racism, and social justice, all set in Cleveland.

Thanks for reading!

Imagine Your Story: RiverCon Interview with Karly West

RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” amazing local comic artists and authors from home! Each Thursday morning from now until July 2nd you can read a new interview right here on Read it Or Weep.

Our first RiverCon interview kicks off with Karly West! Karly is the author and artist of The Scholarly Banana: Fitcher’s Bird and a Rocky River native! Read more about Karly here.

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Karly: I have a lot of weird, varied interests that I stubbornly refuse to give up! As a kid, I wanted to be an artist, an author, and a teacher. College was the same story: I interviewed with the journalism department, the art department, and the education department, but I had the worst time making a decision. For whatever reason, even though I loved each of these subjects, none of these career paths felt like the right fit for me (note: I earned my degree in education, but I’ve worked as a professional artist since 2010). In 2016, I created The Scholarly Banana as my “dream project” that would enable me to do everything I loved in one fell swoop: Writing, Researching, Design, Sculpture, Photography, Photoshop, Teaching, and…being weird, I guess! I’m happy to say that this has been the most creatively satisfying (and challenging) thing I’ve ever done.


Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?

Karly: Fox Trot. Back in the 90s, I collected all the Fox Trot anthologies and spent countless hours drawing the Fox family. My honorable mention goes to Dilbert. Although I’ve never worked in a cubicle before, I think Scott Adams is hilarious. Side note: His nonfiction books are great, too.


Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?

Karly: Pictures are just another form of communication, so a well-designed, well-written, artistic book should be the best of both worlds, right? Graphic novels are incredibly cinematic. They’re like highly-polished storyboards! But unlike movies, graphic novels let us enjoy stories at our own pace, which is fantastic. I love to re-read my favorite books to analyze and admire all the subtle details. Graphic novels and well-designed picture books are great for that. 


How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work?

Karly: I’ve been a voracious folklore nerd since 2002! More than anything, I love learning about the history and analysis of these ancient, influential stories. My favorite fairy tale books tend to be research-focused, though I don’t always have the mental energy to read college-level texts anymore. I created The Scholarly Banana to solve this problem! The Banana showcases the most exciting facts about folklore studies in a casual, friendly, and irreverently joyful way. It’s like a quirky, artsy CliffsNotes. But with fairy tales. And a banana.

Photo courtesy of Karly West.


Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?

Karly: The Story Of Grandmother is the tale that first got me hooked on folklore studies. Haha, I know the title sounds lame, but this is one of the craziest stories I’ve ever read! It’s an old French version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” However, the girl in this story doesn’t have a red hood, she unwittingly eats her grandmother for lunch, and she arranges her escape by telling the wolf that she has to go outside to use the bathroom. No joke. That’s the story.


What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Karly: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. It’s beautifully creepy. Can I get some honorable mentions for this too? I’m a big fan of Reza Farazmand’s Poorly Drawn Lines (IG @poorlydrawnlines) as well as Patt Kelley’s single-paneled comics (@pattkelley). 

Thanks so much to Karly for participating in our blog interview! Keep your eyes peeled for her next Scholarly Banana book- The Juniper Tree!

Winter Reading Bingo: Spotlight on Local Authors

So, as readers of Read it or Weep have come to learn, we are playing Winter Reading Bingo here at Rocky River Public Library.  Earn a bingo square by completing the (fun and edifying) task.  One of the bingo squares, which I”ll focus on in the blog post, is to read a local author.  But which local author, you say?

With so many wonderful Ohio authors to choose from, here are a few to get you started.

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Three novels by Toni Morrison (click on the book to take you to the catalog):

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Collected Poems by James Wright, newly acquired by RRPL:

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Two collections of novels by Dawn Powell (you could read just one novel in the book – each book has a few novels by her):

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Some links to Ohio authors:

Ohio Authors

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Writers_from_Ohio

http://www.orrt.org/authors/

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/ohio-authors

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/31954.Ohio_Authors

 

Paula McLain Discusses The Paris Wife, Hemingway, and Writing

Last night Paula McLain, author of the New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife spoke to a full house at Rocky River Public Library. I’ll confess, I almost didn’t go because I haven’t read the book yet. I am so glad that my desire to hear an author speak and get a book signed was greater than my desire to be lazy. Paula McClain was charming, engaging, and contagiously passionate about the inspiration behind her book-Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. She made me want to run home and dive right into Hadley’s world (after Project Runway, of course).

McLain discussed everything from the inspiration for the book (reading A Moveable Feast by Hemingway), to her research process(she didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she began), to her opinions on Hemingway’s poetry (apparently it’s dreadful). She read snippets of Ernest’s and Hadley’s letters as well as a particularly stressful passage from her book. During the Q & A session she revealed that the subject of her next book is Marie Curie. Afterwards while signing books she further revealed to a select few where she gets her fabulous haircut and where she found her awesome handbag.

What a lovely evening! Just hanging out with a famous (and local) author talking about Hemingway, handbags and haircuts. How cool is that?

If you haven’t read The Paris Wife yet, I think you probably should. I think this weekend I will head to a cafe and enjoy my signed copy with a latte and a scone.

˜Megan