Some of Los Angeles’ finest and most innovative sequential storytellers met up for dinner recently, and Frank Santoro of Comics Comics was there. Part one was posted last Saturday and part two should be coming this weekend. It’s a fascinating look at the comics community of Los Angeles with interesting observations about the storytelling style of these local artists. Santoro is an acclaimed artist himself, and in fact his arrival in town for a gallery exhibition of his work at Dem Passwords in West Hollywood (still happening until February 18th) was the impetus for the epic meeting.
So who made up the all-star lineup?
Jaime Hernandez makes up one third of the legendary Los Bros Hernandez, creators of the hugely influential Love and Rockets, a series that revolutionized the alternative comics scene in the ’80s. The rich characters Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez created in that series continue to this day in the annual publication Love and Rockets: New Stories. Jaime’s primary narrative grew out from the California punk scene of the time and his home town of Oxnard, about an hour or so east of LA. As you’ll see from the article, Jaime is greatly revered by Santoro, and for good reason because of the high caliber of his work and the trailblazing he did in the industry almost 30 years ago. It’s entirely possible that without him, the rest wouldn’t be doing comics, or if they were, their work would look significantly different and possibly never make it to our hands.
Sammy Harkham is the editor of Kramer’s Ergot, one of the most acclaimed comics anthologies of the last 10 years. He is a respected artist himself, his current work is his series Crickets. He also co-owns the comics and book store Family on Fairfax in West Hollywood. The shape of the sector that is often called literary comics, art comics and/or alternative comics would look a lot different today without him.
Ron Regé, Jr. is, like me, originally from Massachusetts and now lives in Los Angeles. So basically we’re the same person. Except that he’s created amazing artwork that explores colorful dreamscapes like Skipper Bee Bye and Yeast Hoist. He’s apparently working on a new release that sounds amazing. Regé is also a musician, currently playing drums for the LA-based country/folk/psychedelic Lavendar Diamond.
Johnny Ryan is a mad man. Also originally from Massachusetts, he is responsible for reinvigorating humor comics with a brash and often shocking energy, in Angry Youth Comix, Prison Pit, and his work for VICE magazine. Definitely a lot of NSFW, and he’s not for everyone, but I think he’s hilarious. He’s one of the few people carrying the torch of the underground comix of R. Crumb and others.
Jordan Crane is a wonderful artist perhaps best known for The Clouds Above, a delightful children’s story. But he has also created some heartbreaking, simply beautiful stories, such as The Last Lonely Saturday, a poignant tale of an old man visiting his late wife’s grave. The latter is seen in our documentary short Dig Comics, and won over a self-proclaimed book snob and English major who thought comics were just violence.
All of these artists are unique creators to be treasured. Check out the links above and discover stories you didn’t even know you were missing.