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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Jewish Side of TCAF 2016 - this week

Starting on Thursday, May 12th, readers, writers, artists, publishers and fans of comix will converge at the Toronto Reference Library to take part in the the FREE Toronto Comic Arts Festival (aka TCAF).This year marks the 13th anniversary since the first TCAF was held (at a much smaller venue) in 2003.

Among the talented people who will be at TCAF this year are a small number of comix professionals who have done comic art using Jewish characters or themes.

AH Comics Inc. (table 201) is the publisher of Jewish Comix Anthology, volume 1.

Chester Brown (tables 143-145) is the author and illustrator of Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus : Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible which includes adaptations of the stories of Cain and Abel, Job, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Basthsheba.

Drawn  and Quarterly (tables 143-145) is the publisher of The Property, Exit Wounds, Jamalti & Other Stories, The Golem’s Mighty Swing, Jerusalem : Chronicles from the Holy City and Mary Wept Over the Feet of JesusD+Q also published the story "The Peasant and the Snake" in one of its anthologies, which has been reprinted in Jewish Comix Anthology.

Fantagraphics Books (tables 129-130) is the publisher of Jewish Images in the Comics, Palestine, and Barracuda in the Attic.

Terri Libenson is the cartoonist who writes and draws the syndicated comic strip “The Pyjama Diaries”which has spawned 3 book compilations - Deja To-Do, Having It All - And No Time To Do It, and Bat-Zilla.

Jim Ottaviani (tables 122-123) is the author of Wire Mothers: Harry Harlow and the Science of Love and Fallout : J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb.

NBM Graphic Novels (tables 132-133) is the publisher of the Jew in Communist Prague books, BrownsvilleThe Big Khan, and the Isaac the Pirate books.

Ted Rall (table 142) is the author and illustrator of the Bernie Sanders graphic biography Bernie.

Winston Rowntree (table 125) is the author of an untitled story about 2 Jewish teenagers which appeared in the anthology SPX 2004.

Robert Sikoryak is a cartoonist who has adapted classic stories into comic-style retellings, including a Dagwood-style "Adam and Eve", which was reprinted in Masterpiece Comics.

Andy Stanleigh, who illustrated the story "Pillow of Feathers", is the owner of AH Comics (which published the 1st volume of Jewish Comix Anthology). He may be found at the AH Comics Inc. table (#201) during TCAF.

Brian K. Vaughan is the author of the series Y : The Last Man and The Escapists.

Li-Or Zaltzman (table 234) is a writer and artist for The Forward, who is currently working on a 100+ page coming of age story that takes place in Tel Aviv.


Below are CSSC (Canadian Society for the Study of Comics) sessions which might be of interest to those who study Jews and Comics. All sessions take place at The Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel, 90 Bloor St. East, Toronto, 1st Floor.

Thurs., May 12th, 3:00 - 4:20 PM

Etienne Domingue – Towards a Pluralist Hermeneutic of Religion in the Superhero Genre: An Approach Inspired by Marshall McLuhan.
It appears we are living in an age of imagination; current enthusiasm for speculative fiction cannot help but pique scholarly curiosity. How – and to what extent – are we influenced by genre culture? Inversely, in what way might we qualify such phenomena as expressions of individual and collective agency? This presentation aims to account for a specific aspect of popular narratives (i.e., its relation to religion) from three interpretive perspectives inspired by McLuhan’s Laws of Media. Consequently, three dynamics of mutual influence are described: criticism, retrieval, and deconstruction. Popular narratives and religion criticize one another through selective representation; they retrieve each other through creative borrowing; and they deconstruct one another by undermining conventional expectations. The object of this presentation is not to argue for the superiority of any one method of interpretation, but rather to explore some of the meanings made available by a pluralist hermeneutic. Due to time constraints, this presentation focuses on superhero comics and their derivatives.
A graduate student of Université de Sherbrooke’s Centre d’étude du religieux contemporain, Etienne Domingue just submitted his master’s thesis for evaluation. His interests lie chiefly in the study of religion and magic in popular narratives. He is equally (un)comfortable presenting in English or French.

Fri., May 13th, 1:30-2:50 PM

Keith Friedlander – Anthologies and Creative Communities: Mapping the Social Function of Editors
Anthologies occupy an important position in the comic world and serve a number of different purposes. Anthologies can often serve as a starting point for young artists and writers, providing them with a publishing outlet for their work and helping them grow a professional network. Some anthology projects serve as a showcase for existing creative communities, while others help communities take shape by bringing together isolated creative talent under a single title. In this regard, the work performed by the editors of these series in gathering talent, setting guidelines, and managing the project to publication is as crucial to the cultural impact of these anthologies as the artists’ words and images. In order to better understand the influence that anthologies can have on the formation of creative communities, it is necessary to study the social function that editors serve as an organizing force behind creative talent. I propose to write a paper that will evaluate the role anthologies play in creating and sustaining creative communities within the comic world. In doing so, I will draw upon primary research in the form of interviews and surveys with the editors and creative talents who have worked on these anthologies. I will examine a cross section of anthologies including Moonshot: The Indigenous Comic Collection, Jewish Comix Anthology, Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Comics Anthology, and Toronto Comics, amongst others.
Keith Friedlander teaches composition and literature at Humber College, Seneca College, and Trent University. He recently completed a doctoral dissertation on British Romanticism and is awaiting his defense. His research examines how matters of publishing mode and market position affect concepts of authorship and subjecthood.
Fri., May 13th, 1:30-2:50 PM
Tamara El-Hoss – Drawing Exile
Baddawi is a recently published graphic novel written and illustrated by Leila Abdelrazaq, a Chicago-based Palestinian artist and organizer. Although, on the surface, the book is the coming-of-age story of a young Palestinian refugee boy, this graphic novel follows (and draws) the path of thousands of Palestinian refugees during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). Most of these refugees fled at night, by foot, and crossed Palestine’s Northern border into neighbouring Lebanon where they lived in make-shift refugee camps. Baddawi, which means “nomad” in Arabic, is one such camp, and is located in Northern Lebanon. Palestinians lived there in exile for decades, separate and separated from the Lebanese population, hoping to return “home” one day. “Palestinians”, notes Abdelrazaq, “make up the largest refugee population in the world” (notwithstanding the recent Syrian refugee crisis). The author/artist’s black and white illustrations draw on Palestinian “visuals” (landscapes, embroideries) and are heavily influenced by Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. The purpose of this paper will be to examine the manner in which Leila Abdelrazaq depicts and traces this exile, an exile mediated through an activist’s lens and an artistic license.
Tamara El-Hoss is an Assistant Professor at Brock University. Her research interests include graphic novels & bande dessinée, with a special interest in (im)migrant identity, marginality, testimonials, colonial history and politics, gender roles, trauma, diaspora, and queer identity.

Please note that Friedlander's paper and El Hoss's paper are being delivered in 2 different sessions which take place at the same time.


TCAF panels which may be of interest to those who study Jews and Comics.

Sat., May 14th, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM, Toronto Reference Library, Learning Centre 1, 1st Floor
Historical Comics
Panelists Chester Brown (Louis Riel), Tony Cliff (Delilah Dirk), Ben Towle (Oyster War), and Sarah Winifred Searle (Colonial Comics) compare and contrast their methods for retelling events in history. Learn about how they narrow their focus to make old stories come alive again, through a faithful and sometimes fantastic narrative lenses. Moderated by David Humphreys.
Note : Colonial Comics includes the story " Lost Tribe" by A. David Lewis and JT Waldman.

Sat., May 14th, 1:30 - 2:30 PM, Marriott Bloor-Yorkville Hotel, 90 Bloor St. East, Toronto

Newspaper Comics in a Digital World
How are newspaper comic strips evolving in a digital world? Is print really dead? Join six internationally syndicated comic strip artists (Paul Gilligan, Pooche Cafe, Sandra Bell-Lundy, Between Friends, Jonathan Mahood, Bleeker The Rechargeable Dog, Terri Libenson, Pajama Diaries, Dana Simpson, Phoebe and Her Unicorn, and Rina Piccolo, Tina’s Groove) as they discuss new opportunities for their strips, the remodeling of syndication as a business, and the role of social media for newspaper comics.

Sat., May 14, 4:00 - 5:00 PM, Marriott Bloor-Yorkville Hotel, 90 Bloor St. East, Toronto

Spotlight: Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra
The graphic novel series Y: The Last Man is one of Vertigo’s greatest success stories. This tale of an apocalypse in which all men (and male animals!) are killed, save one man and one monkey, has become one of the most popular and widely-read mainstream comic series, periodically returning to the New York Times Best Seller list, and even being adopted to University course curricula across North America! In this special feature interview, the creative team of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra will be reunited with their original commissioning editor Heidi MacDonald in a special discussion, moderated by Mark Medley (The Globe and Mail).

Note : An important character in Y : The Last Man is soldier Alter Tse'elon, chief of the general staff for Israel.


On Sunday, one of the post-TCAF events is Adapting Jewish Stories into Comics at the Miles Nadal JCC at 7:00 PM. For details, please click on the hyperlink.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Adapting Jewish Stories into Comics - free panel discussion on May 15th

AJL logo TCAF : Toronto Comic Arts Festival Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre Alternate History Comics

Adapting Jewish Stories into Comics : A Panel Discussion

Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries (Ontario Chapter) with Community Partners Miles Nadal JCC and TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival)

FREE Event
Date : Sunday, May 15, 2016
Time : 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Location : 750 Spadina Ave. (at Bloor), Room 318, Toronto Ontario M5S 2J2

In 2014, Jewish Comix Anthology collected 41 stories from 47 comics professionals. For the first time, 3 of the book's contributors will come together for a free panel discussion on adapting Jewish stories into comics. The participants are :

* Steven M. Bergson is a Data Processing Specialist at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and is the editor of Jewish Comix Anthology, volume 1, published by AH Comics.

* Liat Shalom is an Israeli-born freelance illustrator/animator and graphic designer who works out of Toronto. She is about to graduate from OCAD University with a BA in Illustration and Animation. Liat has a background in New Media studies at Ryerson University and Printmaking from Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec. Her work arrays from Animation and Filmmaking to Illustration, and Graphic Design. She creates gallery work alongside commercial work and always has something to say. Like a perfectly simmered kneidelach, Liat’s work aims to satisfy a void she feels that there is in the modern Jewish Art Scene that connects illustration and humor together with politics and religion, and aims to bring it to the foreground of pop culture.

* David G. Klein made a career in illustration and is now co-owner of Point Made Animation. He illustrated such title characters as Spiderman and Batman for Marvel and DC comics, and is the author of the graphic novel The Golem’s Voice. His illustrations appear regularly on the editorial pages of the world's leading newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, where he developed the ability to translate complex ideas into quickly understood visuals. Along with other New York Times illustrators, he created INXART, an international syndicated library of editorial art.

Moderated by Keith Friedlander (Professor of General Arts & Science, Humber College).

Light, kosher refreshments will be served. A limited number of copies of the authors' books will be available for sale.

Contact Steve ( or Esther ( / phone : 416-924-6211 ext. 626) for more info.

Monday, February 08, 2016

3rd Interview with Barry Deutsch (author-illustrator of Hereville)

As part of the Association of Jewish Libraries'2016 Sydney Taylor Blog Awards Tour, The Jewish Comics Blog is proud to present Steven M. Bergson's 3rd Barry Deutsch interview. In 2011, Barry was interviewed after winning a Taylor award for his graphic novel Hereville : How Mirka Got Her Sword. In 2013, Barry was interviewed about its sequel - Hereville How Mirka Met a Meteorite - after it was recognized as a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Barry's latest book in the series - Hereville : How Mirka Caught a Fish - recently earned Barry a second Sydney Taylor Award.


SMB : The style of Mirka's remarkable sketch on page 43 is so markedly different from the cartoonish style you usually seem to utilize. Was it difficult to switch styles like that?

BD : Mirka's sketch on page 43 was drawn by my wonderfully talented niece Jemma Andersen. And while I'm at it, the sketches on the side of the refrigerator are by two more nieces - one by Sydney Schlotte, the other by Maddox Schlotte. I'm glad you liked the effect.

SMB : Of the 3 books published thus far, How Mirka Caught a Fish stands out as the most colorful with the introduction of greens, purples and blues.How did such a change come about? Was it your idea? Jake Richmond's? A collaboration? Also, what did it mean for you to have a 3rd artist working on the book (Adrian Walllace, who did the backgrounds)?

BD : The color palettes are chosen by me, but always with input from Jake. In this case, I never said "I want there to be a lot more colors this book" - instead, I kept on making this or that storytelling choice which added new colors, and without intending it I wound up with a much more colorful book.

For example, I wanted the sequences set decades ago to be visually distinct from the rest of the book, and so gave them a completely different palette. Because the main sections of the book use autumn colors, it seemed natural to go for a spring palette for the past, hence all the greens.  Then I also needed the underwater confrontation to have a different feel, indicating that Mirka had traveled into the Fish's world, and so that ended up being all in blues. And, finally, I wanted the Fish to be a visual alien wherever she was, and to "pop" visually, and after quite a bit of trial and error she wound up being orange-colored in the green past and green-colored in the orange present. 

None of these decisions on their own would have made this book much more colorful than the first two books, but added together they made the book a lot more colorful. And I didn't even realize how many more colors there were, until the book came out and people began commenting on it.
Working with Adrian Wallace, who drew the environments, was wonderful - he does beautiful work, and lots of things came out better than they would have if I had been on my own. In theory, it was going to allow me to get pages done faster, but I'm not sure that worked. But I do think it allowed me to spend more time and care on the character drawings, and hopefully that shows. Adrian says he thinks my figures are better and looser this book.

SMB : While How Mirka Caught a Fish is visually more colorful than its predecessors, it is also the darkest book of the trilogy, in terms of content and story. The threat of death has been present ever since the knitting contest in the first Hereville book, but the 3rd book just seemed a lot darker and scarier than the other books you've written. What inspired you to explore the darker side of Hereville? Something in your personal life, maybe?

BD : I agree that book 3 was darker than the first two books (although you should have seen some of the scripts for book 2 that didn't end up being the final scripts - one of them in particular, about one of Mirka's older sisters getting married, was so intense and scary! I still hope to draw that one someday).
I can't say I had a deliberate strategy.  I just wrote the story, and this is where it went. I like to bring a different sibling of Mirka's to the forefront in each Hereville book, and I thought it would make a nice switch to put the focus on a much younger sibling. But once I had chosen a babysitting theme, it was inevitable that the story would be more intense, because making Mirka responsible for a child's well-being raises the stakes so much.

But darkness has always been part of the Hereville series - even in book one, we have not only Mirka's near-death with the troll, but she also nearly drowns, and the death of her mother is always looming over Mirka. And there's always friction and harshness mixed in with the love in Mirka's family. I just enjoy that mix of suffering and humor and happy endings. If the characters don't struggle and suffer, I feel as if I haven't done my job properly.

SMB : As a Whovian, I'm compelled to ask you about Mirka's unique skirt which is literally punctuated by exclamation marks and question marks. Is this a deliberate Doctor Who reference (different incarnations of The Doctor have worn question-mark-design outfits), especially since Mirka time travels in this story?

BD : I'm afraid there's no conscious significance to Mirka's skirt pattern; I just thought it would be cool-looking. (At the risk of plummeting nerd cred, the Doctor Who connection never occurred to me. Although I have drawn Mirka as a couple of different Doctors for fan sketches.)

SMB : Many stories have been written with characters being granted wishes, but the short story "The Monkey's Paw" (by W.W. Jacobs) stands out to me as the one which epitomized the concept of the wishes-with-a-dark-twist trope. Was that story a source of inspiration for How Mirka Caught a Fish?

BD : Embarrassingly, I've never actually read Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw", although of course I know the story from references and parodies, such as the Monkey's Paw story in the second "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons. (Maybe saying that regains a little lost nerd cred?) And obviously that trope - wishes that, due to being interpreted in a malicious way by the wish-granter, rebound and do great harm - was very much in my mind as I wrote this book. 

When I first started writing this story, the villain was originally a magic chicken. But then I was inspired to use a magical fish character by a 2003 news story in New York, in which some Hasidic Jews reported hearing a carp in a fish market yell in Hebrew. This eventually got mixed up with the old fairy tale "The Fisherman and His Wife," about a wish-granting Fish - the Brothers Grimm collected that fairy tale, among others. Plus at some point my mind latched onto an  image of a little girl whose head had been replaced by a giant fish body. So, as usual, I sort of started with this mix of elements and just kept on shaking them together until something story-shaped came out.

SMB : This is the 3rd Mirka book in which Mirka is an 11-year old (6 years after the publication of the first book). Are you going to start telling stories of Mirka as a teen or are you still working through the 11-year old stage?

BD : A lot of people - me included - have a childhood year which seems endless in hindsight. How did all of that happen in one year?  For Mirka, that's her eleventh year, and that's the story this trilogy of books is about. It's during this year that Mirka first encounters real, unambiguous magic, and it's also during this year that Mirka fully accepts Fruma as her new mother.
But now that the 11th-year trilogy is completed, any future Mirka books will show an older Mirka.

SMB : I noticed Menachem Luchins' (owner of Escape Pod Comics and a contributor at 13th Dimension) name in the acknowledgements. I'm curious how he helped out.

BD : Menachem was one of several people who very kindly read an advance copy of the book in progress to make sure that I didn't mess up the religious and cultural aspects too badly. I'm really grateful to have had his and other folks' help. Needless to say, the mistakes that remain are entirely on me. 


2 Additional Interviews

Words and Pictures (with S.W. Conser) {audio interview in MP3)

The Horn Book (with Shoshana Flax) {the full interview is in the print edition of the Nov./Dec. 2015 issue ; a single question-&-answer is reproduced online}

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be celebrating and showcasing its 2016 gold and silver medalists with a Blog Tour, February 8-12, 2016! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a wide variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. For those of you who have not yet experienced a Blog Tour, it’s basically a virtual book tour. Instead of going to a library or bookstore to see an author or illustrator speak, you go to a website on or after the advertised date to read an author’s or illustrator’s interview.
Below is the schedule for the 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!
Ketzel the Cat by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Ann Koffsky's Blog
Serendipity's Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At Bildungsroman
Adam & Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey M. Green, illustrated by Philippe Dumas
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Jewish Books for Kids with Barbara Bietz
Hereville : How Mirka Caught a Fish by Barry Deutsch
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Jewish Comics
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At The Prosen People
Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Kristi's Book Nook
Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Talitha Shipman
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Book Q&A's with Deborah Kalb
Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At Randomly Reading
Blog Tour Wrap-Up with all authors and illustrators                                                                                                                   At The Whole Megillah