At Anthem, we’re all book lovers but in different ways. I personally tend to find myself diving into novels, nonfiction tomes, and, yes, comic books of all shapes and sizes, while others within our editorial family veer more towards the art side of the spectrum, gobbling up coffee table volumes and artist monographs every chance they get. Our mass-market preferences aside, though, we all lovingly support anyone bold enough to try their hand at small press. From ‘zine publishers to pamphlet printers to digital distributors, the independent book-lovers of this day and age inspire us―and pique our curiosity.
For the first installment of Another Anthem, we’ve chosen three such entities that share nothing more in common than a deep-seated passion for the smell of heavy ink mixed with thick paper, the sensation of turning the pages of a yet-to-be-broken-in creaky spine, and, of course, the excitement that one wells up upon discovering a new novelist, illustrator, poet, painter, or what have you. Independent publishers, like us, are indiscriminate as long as the content they carry is top-notch.
From an American’s perspective, it’s hard to find much―if anything―to complain about when it comes to the creative endeavors of the Swedes: They make some of the most sought-after threads this side of the Atlantic; bridge the gap between high- and low-end fashion with finesse through companies like Cheap Monday; breed graphic designers and illustrators like its their job (my favorite might be Olle Eksell); and seem to sustain themselves with an enviable mixture of humanist good will and curiosity-fueled innovation.
All the above compliments aside, though, Sweden is not known as a publishing megalith (possibly, in part, due to the fact that there aren’t many big authors in the country―Tove Jansso doesn’t count!) LIBRARYMAN may reverse the course of history, however.
The independent has been churning out side-stapled books as part of a series dubbed A Day In the Life Of… that I’m absolutely hooked on. Photographers Viviane Sassen, Jenny Källman, Ola Rindal, and several others have contributed to the ongoing project. Each book is 32 pages, b/w offset printed, 120 x 180mm, and a reasonable €15. Not too shabby for limited-edition, autographed art!
LIBRARYMAN also does hardbound volumes. I’m most excited about the forthcoming Viviane Sassen monograph, which is being produced, financed, and published in collaboration with Our Legacy, a new Swedish menswear label that has been making waves with their artisan crafted wares of the finest quality. Sassen is a beautiful photographer whose b/w work one can’t help but gush over, be mesmerized by. The fact that the book is produced by an incredible printer in Japan is yet another testament to the Swede’s penchant for outsourcing the manufacturing side of things to maintain quality standards, unlike Americans who do so to cut costs.
I’m not quite as familiar with the Swiss as I am with the Swedes, but since they’re neighbors, I feel it fair to say they share a lot more in common with each other than they do with, say, the U.S. But let’s skip the cultural spiel.
Nieves―and it’s adorable The Three Robbers-esque logo―has been around since 2001. The Zürich-based publisher’s strength has always been the same: repetition. Save for a few products (tote bags, posters), all of the company’s wares can be classified as either ‘zines or books/catalogs making the company quite easy, I assume, to sustain in that every couple of weeks there’re three or so new titles to be found on the Web site, most of which cost about $20.
While Nieves has printed photo collections, sketch books, art magazines, and conceptual pamphlets by famous creatives (Kim Gordon, Mike Mills, Harmony Korine) and even avant-garde fashion houses like Cosmic Wonder, I tend to find the stuff they put out by unknowns/little-knowns to be the most compelling. They’re releasing a book that collects the works of Sumi Ink Club, a wonderful L.A.-based organization that invites folks from all walks of life to sit down and doodle with pen and paper―I can’t help but support such a humanistic organization no matter how small it may be. I’ve never heard of Leon Sadler, but his Beano Hedge collection of wobbly, surrealist, ebullient sketches leaves me feeling we ought to be old friends by now. Publishers like Nieves―those that are nimble, cost-efficient, and on-the-pulse―serve the gallerist-to-artist/audience function: They offer a warm, friendly place to view work, and an expected quick turnaround of participants.
Much of my childhood revolved around reading comics. While I did often mull over―and obsessively collect―superhero monthlies, I focused a tremendous amount of my time acquainting myself with underground comics that most self-appointed geeks of the genre would be hard pressed to read. When I moved to L.A. from Celeveland, I almost immediately discovered Buenaventura Press―which is loosely affiliated with one of the City of Angels’ best book stores, Family―and found myself hooked on the entire roster.
In terms of new stuff, Buenaventura just dropped Matt Furie’s hilarious, almost demented Boys Club 3, a collection of nutty shorts involving a bizarre group of perverted, possibly illiterate mutant friends. They also just delivered Phil Elverum’s Dawn, a 144-page book that’s accompanied by the Microphones/Mount Eerie frontman’s latest solo effort. Buenaventura is also behind a fair amount of the absolutely disgusting Johnny Ryan’s work, including Comic Book Holocaust and Klassic Komix Klub. The titles alone say it all―Ryan, an otherwise subdued, normal sort of nice guy, is wholly against self-censorship of any variety and seems to exist in a Bizarro World of ethics and morals. Obviously, his stuff is funny as hell.
Most importantly, Buenaventura published Kramer’s Ergot 7, an anthology of epic, astronomical proportions (literally―the thing’s 16″X21″). Featured are some of today’s independent comics greats… from Ivan Breunetti to C.F., Matt Groening to Jaime Hernandez, John Pham to Seth. I won’t spoil too much of the absolute doozy of a read, but know that you’ll probably never find something as genre-aggrandizing and -celebrating as Kramer’s. Buenaventura respects its roster members just as much as it respects itself.