In December, the Forbidden Planet International blog sent maverick reporter Stilts McGoon to Noo Yawk to talk to some of the boys (and gals) behind Trip City. The result was the first part of our Trip City roundtable. In this much-delayed second part (Sorry, Joe – Stilts) McGoon chats to more of the people – Dean Haspiel, Nick Abadzis, Jennifer Hayden, Kevin Colden and Joe Infurnari – posting content at this ‘Brooklyn-Filtered Literary Salon’.
If you haven’t visited the website Trip City, a mixture of reportage, essays, prose fiction, commix, films and much more besides, then you’re missing out:
Stilts: Why does Trip City exist? If it didn’t, would it have to be invented?
Dean Haspiel: TRIP CITY is a multimedia evolution of what me and my peers learned doing print anthologies and webcomix collectives and is a personal venue to do more than just comix. TRIP CITY exists simply because we decided it would.
Kevin Colden: The prophet Muhammed or someone who looked just like him appeared to Dean Haspiel late one night and told him to gather together the finest people on Earth and create something that would instantly inspire world peace. Trip City is the result of that effort and it radiates with the glorious light of a thousand suns.
Nick Abadzis: Trip City is Dean [Haspiel's], Seth [Kushner's] and Chris [Miskiewicz's] brainchild. It’s a way of looking at the local area and the world in general through a glass darkly, so to speak. It was born through Dean’s energy and determination, Seth’s vision and Chris’ humour. The rest of us all contribute ideas, but they’re the ‘brains trust’. Now it’s here, I don’t think it couldn’t not exist. If you know Dean, you know that he’s always conjuring great things out of nothing. He’s a true creative, always putting things into the world. Trip City’s sort of a wormhole into another one, which I think will be very entertaining.
Jennifer Hayden: In the past when there were art movements or literary movements, people got excited and started a magazine. Now they start websites. Trip City could only have been invented by Dean and Chris and Seth. It’s a website and a magazine and a movement.
Joe Infurnari: I think Trip City exists because a lot of us are looking for new ways to get our work out there. Speaking for myself, I feel that the landscape for artists is changing very quickly in terms of how they get their work out into the world. I’m not sure that the web comics model is for everyone so Trip City represents a different approach. Trip City is a cultural collective instead of just a comics collective. I think that’s the real difference. What I offer on Trip City are basically web comics but the difference is that I’m putting them on a site that draws its audience from a wide array of disciplines.
Comics seem to have a tough time building new readers and few people who don’t read comics are ever really exposed to them. Trip City is our attempt to bring comics into the fold with the other media of literature, poetry, photography, art, music and theatre. It’s our way of staking our claim that comics are just as valid as all other media of expression. For many of us, that’s something we not only preach; it’s what we practise. Seth Kushner, Dean Haspiel, Chris Miskiewicz, Nick Abadzis, Amy Finkel, Kevin Colden, Jeff UK and Ron Scalzo are all multidisciplinary artists. For folks with varied talents, Trip City is an opportunity to show a sampling of all their output in one place, too.
(Loony Sharpie Doodles by and (c) Joe Infurnari)
Stilts: Please tell me how you came to be involved in Trip City?
Joe Infurnari: I had become good friends with Dean at his old studio, Deep 6. When he moved to Hang Dai studios, I would make a point of visiting it from time to time. It seemed like I would end up there on evenings when Dean, Seth, Chris, Nick and Tim would be discussing an upcoming secret project (the as yet unnamed Trip City). Not being one known for keeping my mouth shut, I would end up offering up ideas and I guess I was enough of a squeaky wheel that they offered me to join up.
Kevin Colden: I was at breakfast one morning with Seth Kushner and my infant son Charlie – because that’s when those of us who have acquired children have meetings – and we were discussing the possibility of jointly purchasing some nuclear arms from the Canadian government. Naturally, the conversation turned from there to comics and he mentioned that he was starting a new website with some likeminded fellows and could I possibly be bothered to grace the collective with my presence. After chuckling softly and farting loudly I reached in my back pocket and pulled out the crumpled first pages of Baby With a Mohawk, threw them in his face and ran away, leaving him to pay the check and drop my son off at home. I haven’t spoken to him since.
(perplexing problems for the Baby With a Mohawk by and (c) Kevin Colden)
Nick Abadzis: They asked me and I am honoured to join them. They make me laugh a lot and they always provoke interesting ideas.
Dean Haspiel: TRIP CITY is staffed with interesting and interested, like-minded creators who proactively hawk their wares and understand that the art of making something and making it available is only half of the battle. To contribute to TRIP CITY means you are challenged as a publisher and a publicist, too. With that criteria, TRIP CITY was strategically curated to mutually benefit the content and creators involved.
Jennifer Hayden: S’Crapbook was a webstrip I had recently started posting on www.onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.com, but the blog went on hiatus, leaving my strip homeless. Dean told me Trip City was in the works and asked if I’d like to post S’Crapbook there. I love the idea of a multi-media website, and when I saw who else was involved and what they were contributing, I jumped right in.
(panels from Jennifer Hayden’s S’Crapbook)
Stilts: What can people expect to find when they visit Trip City?
Joe Infurnari: That’s a tough question because there’s such a wonderful variety of things to be had at Trip City. Fans of music can take in a podcast with interviews such as Moby and Henry Rollins as well as check out a live recording or the latest single from Jeff’s Americans UK. Literary types can read essays and poetry by Sandra Beasley, Jonathan Vankin, Dean Haspiel and Chris Miskiewicz to name a few.
Our most recent podcast has an interview with Johathan Lethem! Fans of the visual arts can appreciate the work of Seth Kushner, Jen Ferguson and Krista Dragomer while comics buffs can check out new work and process pieces by Nick Abadzis, Jennifer Hayden, Dean Haspiel, Kevin Colden and myself among others. Most importantly if someone visits the site and discovers something else they enjoyed, then we’ve succeeded.
Kevin Colden: What can one expect when gazing upon the lost city of gold? Or the Holy Grail? Or the face of God? I would expect wonders beyond imagination, that’s what.
Nick Abadzis: It’s essentially a magazine format, a compendium of features and viewpoints but with a revolving bunch of curators and contributors. For me personally, it’s a place to put a lot of my non-comics ideas. Or comics-related ideas that don’t quite fit in more traditional arenas, or which aren’t SF-related like my essays at Tor.com. I like to write features and reviews, I like to observe culture in general – in one sense, my comics work is a relatively small part of my life and the things that get sieved through my perceptual filters. I have a mountain of ideas that often lie dormant in my sketchbooks and notebooks. Now I have a place to put some of that stuff.
Dean Haspiel: TRIP CITY is only a month old as I type this and what you can expect to see and read and enjoy, for free, are highly independent yet universally appealing comix, prose, humor, real life stories, erotica, doodles, sketches, interviews, profiles, music, spoken word, pop culture, personal essays, and whatever we deem worthy of our time and yours. Soon, we will also have short movies and television. TRIP CITY is the only place I will publish process pieces and “unexpurgated Dean Haspiel.” Come Dec. 6th, TRIP CITY will furnish my new, 22-page BILLY DOGMA comic, “The Last Romantic Antihero.” (Please note this round-table conversation was started with multiple folks some weeks back right on the hells of the first part)
Jannifer Hayden: I am still surprised by the offerings on Trip City — from comix to standalone art to music to stories to all sorts of loose editorials. Every time I stop in, I unwrap a new idea.
Stilts: Where are your hopes for the site? Where would like it to be in one, five, ten years time?
Jennifer Hayden: I expect Trip City to keep intensifying and expanding, taking on more multi-media experiments. And I think a performance aspect would be fun.
Kevin Colden: I would hope that within five years, Trip City will be the primary form of currency for the United States and Europe, making all paper money obsolete and securing intellectual property as the most valuable extant monetary unit. There are other “intellectuals” that we will need to club* to death first, but I think with persistence we can achieve this goal and more.
(*by club I mean dance club. Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen in an Ecstasy-fueled breakdance face-off to the death.)
Joe Infurnari: I have a couple of models for what I’d like to see. One would be a large enough following for the site that would allow us to hold live performances that take the online experience into a new direction. We would reinterpret our works for the stage and combine our various strengths in writing, music and art to create an interesting real life experience. The other model may not be mutually exclusive but involves having a core unit of individuals so that we could agent our works to publishers, negotiate contracts, market and promote our output all from within the Trip City brain trust. If it does well enough, we may not even need third party publishers but could do all of it in house with our own graphic design and book packaging affiliations. If we could find all the things we need as professional artists etc within our own group, I think we could really be onto something.
Dean Haspiel: I have no plans for the future of TRIP CITY except to live in the moment. TRIP CITY is organic and I learn about it everyday and, if it becomes popular and the masses demand an App or a digital download or a sexy, expensive print edition, we will consider those options. Meanwhile, comments and communication; spreading the good word of TRIP CITY via social networking, is our current currency. If you like what you see and read at TRIP CITY, please share it.
Stilts:Is Trip City about a ‘strength in numbers’ approach to publicising your art?
Kevin Colden: Trip City is about spreading the love across all media. I like to spread my love across many media, sometimes more than one at a time, if you know what I mean (wink, wink). Would you like to join me?
Nick Abadzis: I’ll admit, that’s a draw for me (no pun intended). I’m habitually something of a loner, which is partially just due to the way I work, alone in my own space, my own head. Publicity therefore tends to be a singular pursuit too, so it feels great to also be covered by an umbrella organisation and sit alongside people I like and respect and whose work I enjoy. I think we all like the feedback and exchange of ideas.
Jennifer Hayden: I think of Trip City less as a place to publicize than as a place to grow as an artist. My projects are self-generated and I’m not part of a studio. So it’s great for me to have cohorts, and a regular deadline, and comments. I also am really digging the creative challenge of a 4-panel strip.
Joe Infurnari: I think this is where I was going with my last answer. It would be ideal if we could keep our members employed on various projects with each helping everyone else get their work out there. For now however, I think it works to have each of us bring our audiences to Trip City and introduce them to as much of the other great stuff going on there as possible.
Stilts: Are you hoping to bring the medium of comics to a wider audience via the site? What particular challenges do cartoonists face at the moment in America (and, indeed, internationally)?
Kevin Colden: People love free comics, right? Right. That’s the answer to both questions.
Dean Haspiel: Comix is just one component of TRIP CITY. And, if someone came to read artist/writer Jenn Shannon’s personal report on Richard Serra’s “Junction/Cycle,” or a profile from Seth Kushner’s Culture POP series, or Jen Ferguson’s heart-charming “Metrollpolis,” or a short zombie story by Jef UK, or an upcoming, erotically-charged holiday ditty by award-winning poet/author, Sandra Beasley, and stumbled upon our comix, too, then they’re taking full advantage of the expansive TRIP CITY experience. Why limit our works to one kind of fan-base? Otherwise, no. There is no mission statement, as far as I’m concerned, to teach people the power of comix. That’s like trying to convince people that air and water is cool. Comix, like life, is essential. And franchise comic book publishers shouldn’t be shy to contact us to help make their comic books better. ‘Nuff said.
(a page from Metrollpolis by and (c) Jen Ferguson)
Jennifer Hayden: I think more people interested in other media will read the comix here, and that’s fantastic. I also wonder if there will be more mixing of comics with other media as a result of artists working together on the site. I believe comix are coming of age in the U.S.–growing up into a serious literary art form, and so they should be appearing side-by-side with music, video, literature, more traditional media. Trip City is a place where they can do that.
Joe Infurnari: Trip City puts comics on a level playing field with all the other stuff going on at the site. Comics as a medium has been marginalized and misunderstood in North America. For many, comics are considered juvenile junk simply because they are comics. There has been a lot of progress made on this front in recent years but there’s still a long way to go. Visitors to Trip City are going to see comics of all stripes and colors. Chris Miskiewicz and Kate McElroy have a great personal comic on the site called Adrift which is very different from Kevin Colden’s Baby with a Mohawk which is also different from any of Dean’s Billy Dogma strips. Comics are a medium like novels, films etc and the kinds of stories one can tell within that medium is limitless.
Stilts: And finally, what question haven’t I asked about the site that I should have?
Kevin Colden: You should have asked about Trip City: The Musical. It has no music, isn’t on stage, and looks exactly like the website. In fact, it IS the website:www.welcometotripcity.com
Joe Infurnari: Q: What’s the thing to come out of Trip City that will be the single greatest cultural event of the millennium? A: Joe Infurnari’s Time Fucker coming soon to Trip City. ;)
About this roundtable’s participants:
Emmy award winning artist, Dean Haspiel, created the Eisner Award-nominated BILLY DOGMA, the semi-autobiographical digital comic, STREET CODE, helped pioneer personal webcomics with the invention of ACT-I-VATE, and co-created/co-curates TRIP CITY.net, a Brooklyn-filtered, multimedia salon.
Dean has drawn many great superhero and semi-autobiographical comic books published by Marvel, DC/Vertigo, Dark Horse, IDW, Image, Scholastic Graphix, Toon Books, Top Shelf, Playboy, The New York Times, and Tor.com, including critically acclaimed collaborations with Harvey Pekar (American Splendor, The Quitter), Jonathan Ames (The Alcoholic), Jonathan Lethem (Cousin Corinne’s REMINDER), Tim Hall (The Last Mortician), and with Inverna Lockpez on the Harvey Award winning, CUBA: My Revolution. Dean illustrated the Super Ray comics art for HBO’s “Bored To Death,” for which he won an Emmy award for his work on the opening title sequence.
TRIP CITY is the current vista where Dean Haspiel’s cosmic bruiser, Billy Dogma, excavates unexpurgated romance and adventure with his knock ‘em dead dame, Jane Legit, while flexing two-fisted aggro-moxie and purple staccato for the 21st Century. Please click here to see what Dean’s been up to at TRIP CITY.
For more Dino Info and News, check out his MAN-SIZE blog. Dean also answers to the name Dino, not because of his similarity to the Rat Pack member but because of his remarkable impersonation of Fred Flintstone’s pet dinosaur.
Jennifer Hayden’s first book, UNDERWIRE, was published October 2011 by Top Shelf. Jennifer came to comics from fiction-writing and children’s book illustration. She is a member of ACT-I-VATE, the premier webcomics collective, and her comics have appeared in two anthologies: The ACT-I-VATE Primer, and Cousin Corinne’s Reminder. She is currently working on a graphic novel about her life and her experience with breast cancer, The Story of My Tits, forthcoming from Top Shelf. She lives in a barn in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, three cats, and the dog.
Nick Abadzis was born in Sweden to Greek and British parents. He is a cartoonist, writer, graphic novelist and editor of international renown who has been honoured with various awards including the prestigious Eisner in 2008 for his graphic novel Laika. Laika also won best script at Le Borget Book Festival in France and a Micheluzzi for best foreign graphic novel at the 2009 Napoli Comicon Awards in Italy. It was selected by YALSA as one of its top ten graphic novels for 2007 and it was both a Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Review Best Book of the Year. To date, there have been ten foreign editions.
Nick Abadzis has been published in the USA by Condé Nast Digital, Macmillan, Marvel Comics, DC/Vertigo Comics and Tor.com, in Japan by Kodansha and Korea by Marubol Publications. His comics have appeared in various national UK newspapers including The Times, The Guardian and The Independent on Sunday and he has been published in Europe by BBC Worldwide, Dargaud, Glenat, Magic Press, 2000AD, Doctor Who Magazine, Punch and Atrium Verlag, among others. He also works as an editorial consultant and has helped create lasting equity and sales for the numerous magazines, websites and publishing entities that he has been involved with. He recently relocated from London in the UK to New York City where he continues to work both as a storyteller and editorial consultant. His next major project is a revamped and digitally-restored collection of his first ever strip Hugo Tate, originally published in legendary UK music and comics magazine Deadline. This will be published by Blank Slate Books in spring 2012, and other graphic novels are in the works.
Joe ‘The Towering’ Infurnari is a Brooklyn based Canadian cartoonist. His web comics have been nominated for two Eisners and his print illustrations have appeared in the pages of Marvel, Image Comics, Three Rivers Press, and more. He has two graphic novels coming from First Second. MUSH! Sled Dogs with Issues! is out now and MARATHON is out in Spring 2012.
Kevin Colden is the author of the Eisner Award-nominated, Xeric award-winning graphic novel Fishtown and the digital comic series I Rule the Night. He drew the comics adaptation of Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, has illustrated an edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, contributed to Vertigo’s Strange Tales, and appears in various other projects from DC Comics and IDW Publishing. He is a veteran of the ACT-I-VATE and Chemstry Set webcomics collectives as well as Zuda Comics.