JONATHAN AMES’ INTRODUCTION FOR SETH KUSHNER’S SCHMUCK

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When Seth Kushner was doing his Kickstarter for SCHMUCK last year, The Nerdist published Jonathan Ames’ introduction for the graphic novel. Jonathan is a good friend of Hang Dai and the author of many essay collections and novels, including What’s Not To Love?, The Extra Man, Wake Up, Sir!, The Alcoholic (with Dean Haspiel), and he is the creator of HBO’s Bored To Death, and Starz’ new show Blunt Talk, starring Patrick Stewart.

Schmuck: An Introduction
By Jonathan Ames

Full disclosure: I know Seth Kushner socially. We’ve met a handful of times over the years, and he has always struck me as a sweet and thoughtful person. An adult even.

So I thank the Gods that Schmuck is a work of fiction and not a direct reflection on Seth himself, on who he is as a human being. An artist, in this case a writer, should be allowed to create what he wants. Do we judge Hitler for writing Mein Kampf? No. We judge him for other things. Then again maybe we do judge him for Mein Kampf. After all that is work of a non-fiction, an auto-biography, and so it is a direct reflection of the man. I was simply trying to think of shocking books and for some reason Schmuck brought Mein Kampf to mind, perhaps because Schmuck unintentionally seems to support some of Hitler’s theories of Jews as a subspecies.

Let me think of a better example. Do we judge Hitchcock for making Psycho? No. Even if that film reveals some of the dark corners of Hitchcock’s mind, we give him a pass because it’s art. And so in the same way we should give Seth Kushner a pass for the very dark corner of his mind that he has shown us in his art, in this wonderful book Schmuck, which you are holding at this very moment. It is telling, though, that the two works I thought of while trying to understand and introduce Schmuck are Mein Kampf and Psycho.

For me, Schmuck, ultimately, is a cautionary tale, a horror story masquerading as autobiographical fiction, which I guess does explain my Mein Kampf and Psycho mash-up. Each story in this book, all of them written by Seth but illustrated by a different talented artist, is like a car accident of humiliation and stunted adolescent male behavior perpetuated years past adolescence, and you the reader are like someone passing by the accident – you can’t help but to stare and gawk and wonder, even as you cringe in horror and cry out with a hash-tag attached — #toomuchinformation!

That said, Schmuck is also very funny and honest and brave, and I happily gobbled up each tale, often thinking of some version of “But for the grace of God go I.”

But, sadly and truthfully, since perhaps there is no God, it is where I have sometimes gone and still go. So I thank Seth Kushner for having the balls to create Schmuck, for sharing this dark corner of his mind and for allowing some of us out there to feel less alone as we cower in our own dark corners.

I guess that’s the happy ending as it were, which is only fitting for a book called Schmuck and which is why, in case you didn’t notice, I also said that Seth had balls to write it, because I hope that most people are aware of the fact that the earliest definition of this Yiddish word schmuck, though it’s a source of some debate, is penis, and that to call yourself a schmuck is not quite like saying that you are a cock but that you are an idiot penis.

So, from one idiot penis to another, I thank Seth for writing this book and for making me laugh and in doing so lightening my pitiful load.

(Sorry, another bad sexual pun, but I can’t help it as this introduction dribbles out to a somewhat weak conclusion, so weak that I need to underscore my bad puns by italicizing them. Well, I’m a schmuck after all. Just like Seth. I mean just like Seth’s fictional protagonist, and so you, the reader, especially Seth’s wife, should not presume that this book is anyway a reflection on Seth himself, as I averred at the start of this once strong, now flaccid intro.)

Jonathan Ames

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Benton & Haspiel talk art comix at Word Balloon Podcast

DeanJacksonTerraGregSCHMUCKSsm(Dean Haspiel, Jackson & Terra Kushner, Gregory Benton at Hang Dai Studios)

Gregory Benton & Dean Haspiel talk about their Hang Dai Editions graphic novels and the late Seth Kushner with John Siuntres at Word Balloon podcast.

Listen here.

http://wordballoon.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-art-comix-scene-with-dean-haspiel.html

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Graphic NYC Trading Cards to Benefit Seth Kushner’s Family

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Hang Dai Editions is honored to partner with Christopher Irving of The Drawn Word and Graphic NYC to present an exclusive 13-piece trading card set featuring twelve perennial cartoonists photographed by the late Seth Kushner, and a portrait of Kushner photographed by his good friend, Carlos Molina.

Here is the official press release:

As a benefit and tribute to the late comic book writer/photographer Seth Kushner, a set of 13 cards have been published to benefit Seth’s wife and son. Published by Hang Dai Editions through Christopher Irving’s The Drawn Word, the cards feature creator signatures in a limited run.

The cards will debut at Small Press Expo (Sept. 19-20) at the Hang Dai table (#w35) with Kushner’s partners Dean Haspiel, Gregory Benton, and Josh Neufeld. The cards retail for $15 a pack, and $25 for a pack with a single creator signature.

“I wanted a way to honor Seth’s work while also showcasing the friendships he cemented with creators during our Graphic NYC project,” Irving says. “I actually started with the intention of 10 cards, but had more creators wanting to participate. I also worked with the printer to find a stock that best replicated that used in our book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics. It’s the most touching tribute I can think of for my old friend, and a great way to benefit his wife, Terra, and son, Jackson.”

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Twelve creators are showcased in the set, with the thirteenth card a Seth Kushner card, using a photo portrait by Seth’s longtime friend Carlos Molina.

The creators are Neil Gaiman, Becky Cloonan, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Dean Haspiel, Molly Crabapple, Larry Hama, Scott McCloud, Jimmy Palmiotti, Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, and Alex Ross.

“Seth would have gotten a real kick out of seeing some of his photographs realized as classic trading cards, the kinds we used to flip and swap during lunchtime in the schoolyard,” says Haspiel. “The only thing missing from this set is a stale stick of bubblegum!”

100% of the proceeds go directly to Terra and Jackson Kushner. Only five fully-autographed sets will be auctioned off, with details to come. The Graphic NYC Cards will be sold at the Hang Dai booth at both SPX and the Baltimore Comic Con. Remaining stock will be sold through Irving’s The Drawn Word.

Direct contributions can be made to the Kushner family through their gofundme page.

Also, Hannah Means-Shannon conducted a great interview with Chris Irving about the trading card project at Bleeding Cool.

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Comics Alternative’s publisher spotlight on Hang Dai Editions

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Comics Alternative did a nice publishers spotlight and early review of Hang Dai Editions’ fall releases of Seth Kushner’s SCHMUCK, Gregory Benton’s SMOKE, and Dean Haspiel’s BEEF WITH TOMATO, on their podcast, episode #148. Big thanks to Derek Royal and Gene Kannenberg, Jr.

You can listen to it HERE.

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Newsarama: Dog Days Of The Dead In GREGORY BENTON’s SMOKE

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Chris Arrant interviewed Gregory Benton about his upcoming graphic novel, SMOKE, at Newsarama. The book debuts at SPX and Baltimore Comicon and will be released in book stores Sept. 15th.

Excerpt:

Nrama: You’ve drawn other dogs before Xolo (and probably other after), but how do you feel he fits into your informal canines in your cartooning?

Benton: I feel that this Xolo is a character that combines all of the pups I’ve been drawing over the years—a sort of amalgam of the ancient Aztec and modern Day of the Dead styles combined with pitbull. Mutts are the best, obviously. The Mexican aesthetic, folklore, and sentiment spoke to me more than any of the other myths of shepherd dogs, be they Cerberus or Lassie.

Nrama: Smoke, like B+F, is wordless. How hard a rule is that for you, and how much of it is just natural?

Benton: I wanted to communicate both stories without relying on written or spoken language. Not far off from a cave painting, if you stare at it long enough, the story will come through so long as the general tropes of human expression are similar. Hopefully this enables the narrative to sidestep geographical boundaries so it can be understood most anywhere. And to be honest I haven’t evolved much beyond the Stone Age.

Read the entire article and interview here: http://www.newsarama.com/25486-dog-days-of-the-dead-in-gregory-benton-s-smoke.html

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First Look: Seth Kushner’s SCHMUCK

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Copies of Seth Kushner’s graphic memoir, SCHMUCK, has arrived at Hang Dai Studios and will debut at SPX and Baltimore Comicon. Take a sneak-peek below at the Kickstarter cover and some interior pages. Thanks, Eric Skillman for the beautiful design work and for helping shepherd Seth’s book to fruition.

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The Beat: Gregory Benton’s Smoke is a wordless fantasy

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Heidi MacDonald spoke to Gregory Benton about his upcoming graphic novel, SMOKE, at The Beat and showed exclusive images from his wordless fantasy.

Excerpt:

“I am endlessly inspired by the possibilities of wordless narrative. There is a long and fertile history with contemporary author/artists like Peter Kuper (The System) and Jim Woodring (Frank) along with the classic Franz Masereel (Passionate Journey) and Milt Gross (He Done Her Wrong). Without dialogue or exposition to guide a reader, the wordless comic opens itself up to varying interpretations and I can appreciate that. The reader is an integral and active component to the narrative.

Smoke is part of the same universe as my previous wordless book B+F (AdHouse Books & Editions çà et là). While I was brainstorming the second B+F story, the Xolo skeleton dog from the first book kept making an appearance. My sketchbooks and doodles had become overrun with drawings of the Xolo and two young brothers. Around the same time, I had been discussing with friends and reading articles about farm workers and the story sort of came together.

Read the entire article/interview here: http://www.comicsbeat.com/fall-preview-gregory-bentons-smoke-is-a-wordless-fantasy/

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