This is a partial and rough English version of my blog Just Indie Comics (Banner by Pat Aulisio)

lunedì 21 aprile 2014

Rotland Press

Sophisticated cynicism, creative cruelty and subversive humor filled in shocking and sensational stories, made to entertain but even to remember the despair inherent in every human being. This is the mission of Rotland Press, a small publishing house located in Detroit and run by publisher and editor Ryan Standfest and creative director Stephen William Schudlich. The mission doesn't deal only with indie comics of these days, since Rotland books are full of references to literature, poetry, art, cinema and obviously comics of the past. So, even if the most part of these books is made by contemporary artists, every item published by Mr. Standfest has a unique charm, as it came from a distant time. Let's see for example the series Rotland Dreadfuls, which has recently reached the tenth issue with Sadistic Comics by R. Sikoryak. This collection, made of little comic books of 16 or 20 pages, recalls admittedly the Penny Dreadfuls, the cheaply-produced 19th century English pamphlets containing stories that a century later will be defined pulp. So it isn't a coincidence that Cole Closser decided for the sixth issue to adapt the tale Bearskin by the Brothers Grimm, with an exquisite retro style. After all Closser already showed his ability to deal with classic themes in his Little Tommy Lost for Koyama Press (here's my review). 

Another comic book of the series, Birth of Horror by Josh Bayer, looks at a nearer past and takes us back to the early years of Marvel Comics, choosing as main characters Stan Lee, Bill Everett and Gary Friedrich, with an unpredictable guest appearance by The Misfits and an unavoidable cameo of Rom. The funny gags, full of references to comics history, are told in the raw and at the same time rich drawing style of the man behind the anthology Suspect Device (give a look at his current Kickstarter campaign for the fourth issue).
Rotland Press is also a space where master of ceremonies Ryan Standfest can express himself, as it happens in the recent A Little Book of Banal Agony, in the same format of the Dreadfuls and with the usual taste for dark and cruel humor. The book is divided in two parts, Common Causes of Clown Deaths, in which brief but funny tales about this subject join little sketches, and Typical Serious Symptoms for Average Males, where the texts are simple captions and more attention is given to the drawings, consisting of full-page abstract illustrations.

Standfest is the editor of Black Eye, an unmissable anthology that in the two issues published so far has hosted grotesque, humorous, sick, cruel, absurd, morbid, sarcastic and pulp works by artists such as Al Columbia, Mark Newgarden, Olivier Schrauwen, Brecht Evens, Ivan Brunetti, Michael Kupperman, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Kaz, Danny Hellman, Ludovic Debeurme, Stéphane Blanquet, Lilli Carré, Paul Paetzel, Frédéric Coché, Julia Gfrörer, Peter Kuper, Benjamin Marra, Ben Jones, Paul Nudd, David Paleo, Onsmith and many others. 

The list is amazing and it becomes almost incredible when we read the name of David Lynch, who loved the first issue and contributed to the second with his art. But Black Eye isn't only comics and illustrations, since Standfest included also critical contents (the first issue contains his essay about Al Feldstein and Ec Comics, Jeet Heer on S. Clay Wilson, Bob Levin on The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist, Ken Parille on Steve Ditko), tributes to artists of the past (Roland Topor in the first issue, the Mexican illustrator Posada in the second) and some fiction. If the Rotland Dreadfuls recall the publications of the 19th century, Black Eye looks at the beginning of the 20th and in particular at cultural movements such as Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism. The third issue is probably due for the next year but it isn't the only new project, since Standfest is preparing a lot of interesting events and books, as a newspaper publication dedicated to the same Posada, which will have an exhibition component appearing in Detroit, a new cabaret event based on a small book to be called Novus Manualis, a Handbook for the New Man and the Street Folly Print Stall (A Portable Rotland Press), which would be a portable space modeled after 18th and 19th century print stalls in London and Paris, to exhibit and vend Rotland Press projects on the street and within some institutions.

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