Artomix? Comicart? How do I describe this pretty periodical I discovered at my Friendly Local Comix Shop last week? I was so baffled I nearly didn’t pick it up — but a buck-and-a-quarter price tag was impossible value in the world of comics, so I took a plunge.
Cursed Pirate Girl. It’s clearly a comic — four of its 16 pages are sequential art right there in the front. But these ain’t no typical funnybook panels: they’re part Art Nouveau, part illuminated manuscript; panels of such detail it takes artist Jeremy Bastian a week or more to turn out a single page.
So it’s an unusually pretty comic, but it’s a comic, right? Since it’s an “issue 0,” (code for a sampler or starter issue), it’s not surprising to find an interview with Bastian, a septum-ringed Luddite who apparently retreats to his backwoods redoubt to labor over meticulous little brush strokes. But here’s the baffler: Olympian Publishing seems to be a real hybrid house, publishing comics, art gallery books and, apparently, running a private art gallery going public this year in Chicago. It seems part of their business will be publishing the companion books to the exhibitions they’ll mount.
An art gallery … that publishes comics?
They aren’t kidding. Further on in this little pamphlet are interviews with actual, you know, real-art artists, like Neil-Gaiman-regular Dave McKean and an impressive oil-on-canvas painter named Gail Potocki. This issue of CPG includes ads for exhibitions of their work, with the encouragement: “If you’d like to be placed on the waiting list for acquiring original & exclusive limited edition artworks from the show, please contact…” (McKean will even be the “artist in attendance” for the July 17-19 show.)
Unheard of. Comics are kind of a bastard medium, sometimes high culture, sometimes low culture, but rarely two-in-one. If Olympian Publishing can bring the two extremes closer together, that’s good news for the quality of comics coming down the pike. I wish these guys well as they raise the bar for what “indie comic” means.
For the record, credit Comix Revolution in Evanston, Illinois, for being cool enough to stock such an uncategorizable hybrid on its shelves.