Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grimalkin Head Cat Interviewed

A month or so back I stopped at Big Brain (an awesome comix shop here in Minneapolis) to pick up some books. Clarence, one of the employee's at the big B told me that Jordan Shiveley of Grimalkin Press (you know, publishers of HIVE!) was in the process of moving to MPLS. So I thought I’d shoot him an email and welcome him to town. The following interview was loosely and abstractly gone over in person and then about a month later I got my thoughts together and we conducted the interview via email.

Raighne Hogan: I understand you have been mostly on the road as a cook for films sets, what were some of the problems this posed for your as a publisher?  What were some of the positives?

Jordan Shiveley: Well the positives were pretty straightforward monetary. I pretty much took the job just to further subsidize printing costs for Grimalkin Press. The salary was pretty gross so that enabled me to be able to plunk some scratch down immediately on projects that otherwise I would have had to slowly save towards. I really had zero interest in hob knobbing around movie sets; it was a purely financial decision. The bad side is to get the gross salary I had to work twenty-hour days, seven days a week for the last year and a half. Which severely limited how much I could be personally involved in all the minutia of getting the books to print and promoting them etc. After working from 1 AM to 9 PM the last thing my body wanted to do was read emails and look at photoshop files. Luckily I had the wonderful team of Mark Leicht and Ingrid Bohnenkamp working with me during that time so they did all the grunt work for the books that came out during that time as well as convention and distribution duties. I finally quit the movie industry because no matter how lucrative it was I felt I was missing out on the whole point of publishing comics. To actually BE THERE publishing comics.

RH: As a cook, what is the strangest or worst combination of food-stuffs you have assembled as a meal?  For myself, I once threw together a soup mixing banana’s and wasabi as the base... SO, I can’t imagine you making anything stranger or worse than that.  But I am all ears...

JS: Well as a professional cook I haven’t really ever put out any products that I would consider to be a “worst combination”. My food is delicious! But as a curious foodie I have definitely taken some missteps, barbecue sauce ice cream, fried mayonnaise, chicken fat gelee . . .

RH: Have you been reading comics your whole life, or is this a fairly recent development?  

JS: I’ve read comics ever since I was a little kid but that was mostly Spiderman with some occasional Batman or X-Men thrown in for curiosity sake. I think I quit reading them around age sixteen or so. However I didn’t start reading Indie comics or alt comics until somewhere around 2004 so that would definitely be a rather recent occurrence. I got back into comics with Sandman and eventually read Mauss and then Blankets which launched down that path without a look back.

RH: Did you ever draw up plans to be a super hero?  I ask that, because as a child, I sure did.  I was pretty sure scientists were going to throw me into the back of a van on my way home from school and graft bone claws into my for arms.  Prior to that, I was fairly certain that were I to catch some bugs and prick them with a needle, then myself, I would get some of there DNA, thusly, their powers.  And you know what, none of these things ever worked out.

JS: Yeah I would totally draw up my own superheroes. I think I remember going out into abandoned lots and breaking boxes and bottles pretending I was the Ninja Turtles or whatever other character I was currently crushing on. I don’t think I ever actually made serious plans/yearnings towards being a superhero though, I was always a somewhat practical kid in that matter.

RH: Where was it you said you grew up again?  How might’ve that informed your comic making/editing/publishing sensibilities?

JS: Well I was born in Lousiana but grew up the majority of my formative years in Oaxaca Mexico. I’m not sure how it has affected me as a publisher besides maybe having more of a view from the axiom of the poor and disenfranchised. It definitely influenced my aesthetic sensibilities though, Mexican folk art/engravings factor hugely into my design sensibilities. In my own comics I tend towards those blocky simple lines lots of heavy black and white areas.

RH: So, Hive is quarterly?  That’s pretty ambitious.  What made you shoot for that goal? 

JS: I didn’t really know it was ambitious when we started out. I just looked at the poetry and theological journals I was reading at the time and most of them were quarterly so I went with that. However it isn’t a decision I regret. I can’t really imagine putting out just one antho a year, there are way too many comics out there to go that slowly!

RH: One thing that struck me as pretty unique for Hive, as an anthology is the funky covers, often screen printed, concertina folded, or letter-pressed type laid on thick.  The interior content is also rather fabulous, featuring work that is at turns, experimental, excerpts from larger works, previously published, or wholly unique to this printing.  What drives you to these decisions in design, binding, and content?  

JS:
First Design:
I’ve always from day one wanted HIVE to not just be a book of comics, I wanted the layout design and covers to be just as artistically engaging as the comics within. I’d like to think that each issue is an art object as well as a book. I don’t see why those two things should be mutually exclusive. As the anthology gets higher in page count this gets harder to do. It is much easier to do some obscure binding style when you aren’t dealing with 200+ pages. The last two books we’ve dealt with that by perfect binding and using the dust jackets as screen pressed art prints of sorts but I definitely want to look towards doing some more unique paper engineering design in the future.

Now the comics:
I make my decisions on the content based mainly on how engaging the work is. As you’ve noted we definitely aren’t an anthology that tends to one type of work more than the other. I want HIVE to represent as broad a spectrum of sequential art as possible. Sometimes knowing where to draw the line is a murky proposition though and over the two years we’ve done this there are a few comics that I put in that now with the experience I’ve gone through I wouldn’t have in the book today. Learning to say no and shoot down someone’s hopes is definitely the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as an editor. Having said that experience and technical mastery are pretty much never part of the criteria of how I choose comics. You could turn in the first comic you’ve ever drawn and have it be just a series of cubes talking to each other and if I feel it has that ineffable quality that engages the reader I’ll put it in.

RH: How did you meet up with your current collaborators for Grimalkin?  What are your ambitions or goals for this outfit?  

JS: Well I originally started Grimalkin Press with my friend Jon Freihofer, however he moved to Portland to be a rock star barista so I did a few issues alone and then started working with my friend Mark Leicht who is also a cartoonist not to mention the kick ass designer on most of the Grimalkin Press books. My best friend Ingrid Bohnenkamp also helped out as the interim editor for HIVE FOUR. Currently Grimalkin Press is just me and Mark.

Ambitions? Well I have the ambition to maybe one day do this as a full time job. But I’m pretty sure that is quite a ways off in the future. Currently I’m working on trying to get better distribution for HIVE. Really getting it out there on a broader level is the main goal at the moment. That and continuing to publish books that are all quality without any fluff.

I’d also like to see Grimalkin Press become something of a resource for fledgling cartoonists providing support and pointing them in the right directions as to where to submit their work, how to get exposure, what printers are affordable etc.

RH: As the new year inches ever closer (ahh geezus it’s like, uh, tomorrow or something), what are some of your upcoming releases?

JS: Well we just published Everything Dies #5 by Box Brown and have HIVE FIVE coming out in early January. I’d also love to do another book with Noah Van Sciver possibly. We of course are still going to continuously publish HIVE and are taking submissions for a stand-alone one-shot anthology themed around jobs in the food service industry as well.

You can procure many of our books for yourself at www.grimalkinpress.com/shop

And keep abreast of our meandering news updates at www.grimalkinpress.com

Well thanks Jordan for spanning some time with us!

illustration by me

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