Monday, July 14, 2008

Cream City Conversations with Mike Toft

Hello all!

I'm back with another 'conversation'. Before I get into that, I have another reading suggestion for you.

Last week, the comic book reading community had another great reason to be proud of this great literary form rush their local comic shops... NAT TURNER.

In a medium unbalanced by its spandex-clad offspring, it's always nice to see something unexpected arrive on a Wednesday (or Thursday after a national holiday). Sure, we have the garden variety 'slice-of-life' books, and many of them are amazing. But comics is a big enough biz to offer even more. Historical books are nothing new to graphic novels but really, really good ones just don't seem to get the same limelight of the aforementioned comics.

It's a shame.

NAT TURNER was originally self-published by Kyle Baker in 2006. What is basically a silent book is peppered with excerpts from The Confessions of Nat Turner, the few books written about the man, memoirs of other self-freed slaves, and memoirs of various slave traders/owners.

Right about now, you may be thinking... "Didn't Black History Month already happen this year?" or "Did Cream City Comics just become some feel good, politically correct blog?"

But I'm here to tell you this about brilliant comics I haven't read much press about. You'll have to trust me and look it up online or at your LCS.

Still looking for a reason to even look into the subject?

In 2006, NAT TURNER received several Glyph & Eisner Awards as well as a few other awards well into 2007. And I'm certain the book will receive even more awards stretching into 2008 and 2009 thanks to the new 207 page, duo-toned, beefed-up, $12.95 (SC) edition. This baby is also available in a HC edition. Related graphic reading: MAUS, THE PROTOCOL, TRUTH: RED, WHITE & BLACK.

Of course, this begs the questions...

Why haven't we heard more about this great piece of work? I think the answer is probably related to the reason Nat Turner usually turns up as a paragraph or three in American history books.

Okay, that takes care of that bit of business. Let's get on with the 'conversations'. This latest addition to the interview line-up is a newcomer to our fold. Well, Mike isn't exactly new... especially if you're a mini-comic fan living in the Twin Cities.

For the uninitiated, your name and location?

Mike Toft. Minneapolis, MN

2) What have you been up to lately? What are projects have you been attached to in the first 6 months of 2008?

Right now, I'm working on a story for Muscles and Frights. I just did a strip for City Pages about the RNC coming to Saint Paul. They used it on their web site (not in the printed version, damn them). The main other things are the mini for the Lutefisk Sushi Volume C show and Brain Food #14, which I finished back in April.

3) When and where can people pick up and/or see these works?

At this point, I still have some copies of Brain Food #14 and the Lutefisk Sushi mini. Also a tiny number of back issues of Brain Food. Send a buck to me at PO Box 7246, Minneapolis MN 55407, and I'll send you a copy of #14 and the Sushi mini. What a deal!

4) What projects and events are on the horizon? Do you have release dates in-mind at present? If so, indulge us.

There's the Muscles and Fights 3, which I assume is coming out one of these months. Bud Burgy is in control of that. The next thing I'll work on is a mini for FallCon, so that needs to be done by early October. That's about it. Drawing is more of a winter thing for me.

*Note: The third volume of M&F is completed but the release has been put on-hold due to revisions and such. The official release with coincide with the Muscles & Frights release party. -AR

5) Have you been working in any new mediums or experimenting with your known style and tools, at all?

Trying to be more abstract and less detail-oriented at the pencil stage. Also drawing originals smaller, with the goal of drawing faster. Smaller page equals less time per page, right?

*Note: In theory? Yes. Of course, laziness and lack of time/'inspiration' always have a say in the matter too. -AR

6) If you've been trying new things, share a bit of> your thoughts on that process.>

See the previous question.

*Note: Will do, Mike.

7) Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, what do you get out of this process? Do you think it's a good thing, in general, for an artist to do?

I keep a sketchbook to work on copying stuff from books or from artists I like. Also, for the occasional life drawing -- either models or quick sketches of people in coffee places. And to practice drawing things I'm not good at... like cars, for example.

8) Do you ever use these sketchbook drawings for your printed works? If so, please explain how the sketchbook art informs your finished work.

Sometimes I work out how I want something to look in the sketchbook, then try to import that into an issue of Brain Food.

9) With convention season in full swing, where can the comic book reading public expect to see you and purchase your merchadise [personally]?

The best place is the PO Box I mentioned in question 3.

10) The big convention this year has got to be Fallcon 2008. If you plan to be there, will you have anything special for that particular show?

I'll be there. I'll do a mini specifically for that, and also be peddling Brain Food #14.

11) Now we're caught up on what you're doing and> where we can see this year. What are you reading and watching these days? Is there any particular book or film you'd like to make sure people are looking for?

Reading: The Bible and The Koran. (I'm serious. If more people actually read them, fewer people would take them seriously. And we could all get on with our lives). The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Far Arden by local hero Kevin Cannon. I just picked up a pile of books with some of my economic stimulus check. A mix of comic books and book books. Should keep me busy for a year at least. Watching: Reruns of Family Guy and The Simpsons. They're each on about 15 times a week here right now. American Dad... up and down, but the good episodes are hilarious. Team America: World Police. One of my all-time favorite movies... I'm serious. Lake of Fire. A kick-ass documentary about abortion... should be required viewing for everyone in the country. Weeds... I haven't seen season 3 yet, so don't say anything. The Wire... I haven't seen season 5 yet, so don't say anything.

*Note: Just how small is the paper you're working on now, Mike? By the way, I've red the bible. And I think, even if you don't believe in it, it's a great piece of world literature. -AR

12) Anything already in the works for 2009?

I don't plan that far ahead.

13) Do have any other thoughts you'd like to share?

Stop thinking and start doing.

*Note: Amen! -AR

Thanks, Mike!

So, there you have it... another interesting interview to get you through another Monday.