This Month @ SOLRAD: January 2020

This is Alex Hoffman, your publisher. Hello! And also: SOLRAD is here! It’s finally here! I’ve been anxiously waiting for January to come, and now it’s here.

The beginning of a new year is when a lot of folks come out of the surreal triangular haze that is the winter holidays and the new year celebration, half-sober and armed with half-baked resolutions to do better, be better, read more, learn what the phrase ‘international relations’ means, lose 10 pounds, run a marathon, or lift a pickup truck. I’m going to get ripped this year. I’m going to call my mother more. This is the time of the year we make promises to ourselves and others, promises we often fail to keep.

And perhaps this year especially, at the beginning of a decade that looks to be even more gruesome and frightening than the last, it might be tempting to try to wander back into the haze from whence we came. Discretion is the better part of valor, or something. Maybe if we call it avoidance, that will be more honest.

But there’s something beautiful and irresistible about opportunity. Even if the new year comes in squealing like a loose tire on hot pavement, it’s our new year. It’s time to do the things we said we were going to do. It’s time to fix this shit. 

A new year is an arbitrary blessing from the clock. But I’ll take that blessing. I’ve got work to do.

Part of the reason I’m so excited about the launch of SOLRAD is our publishing plan for January. We’ve got a stellar first month for you. Take a look at our planned features below:

  • Tomorrow, we are running an exclusive preview from Lala Albert’s new short story collection, Seasonal Shift. Lala Albert is a cartoonist and artist who focuses on the physicality of the human body and often juxtaposes the embodied self with the ambiguity of the human mind. Her exploration of human sexuality, sensuality, and the voyeuristic nature of modern life has recently been collected by Breakdown Press as Seasonal Shift. This collection offers readers a place to encounter her work for the first time. In its thoughtfulness, its curiosity, and its concern with the human experience, Lala Albert’s work is an excellent representation of the work we hope to feature and examine at SOLRAD.  Other extracts and previews will be featured throughout the month.
  • We’ll also have the latest episode of ENEMIES OF THE STATE up and available for your listening pleasure, featuring a roundtable of critics discussing Emily Carroll’s latest book from Koyama Press, When I Arrived at the Castle. The series has been on a hiatus since September, but we’re excited to bring the show back to its new home on SOLRAD. ENEMIES OF THE STATE will be the initial backbone of the multimedia presence of SOLRAD.
  • Starting the week of January 6th, the founders of SOLRAD (Daniel Elkin, Ryan Carey, Alex Hoffman, and Rob Clough) will be individually unveiling their Top Twenty Comics of the 2010s. Our guest critic this week will be Kim Jooha, whose unique perspective has been published in The Comics Journal (both in print and online), Your Chicken Enemy, and others. Kim’s sense of comics and their unique formal qualities is a powerful counter-argument to what someone like Rob Clough or Alex Hoffman believes makes a successful comic, and her voice is one of many we hope to see plenty of at SOLRAD.
  • For the week of January 13th, five different critics will offer unique takes on one of the best graphic novels published in 2019: Eleanor Davis’ The Hard Tomorrow. Eleanor Davis commanded the 2010s, and arguably wrote one of its finest graphic novels. Her short story collection How to Be Happy rose to critical acclaim, and further work like Libby’s Dad, BDSM, Why Art?, and You & A Bike & A Road solidified her place as one of comics’ most talented creators. Artist and critic Anya Davidson will be our guest this week. Anya is a published cartoonist with Retrofit Comics, Fantagraphics, and Breakdown Press, and has also published comics criticism with The Comics Journal. Her perspective as a cartoonist with a unique vision of the form makes her an excellent candidate to dig into the intricacies of Davis’ work.
  • It’s horror week starting January 20th. Some of the most formally and intellectually challenging comics of the past decade have been in this genre, from Emily Carroll to Conor Stechschulte to Michael DeForge and many others. Horror incisively digs at the things we don’t want to think about: mortality, trauma, the unknown, and a feeling of powerlessness. Each critic will offer reviews of different horror comics, with critic Gretchen Felker-Martin offering her own take (edit 1/5/2020). Felker-Martin’s work relating horror with human psychology, violence, and sexual revulsion has created a body of incisive cultural criticism for outlets including Nylon, Fanbyte, and Polygon. She’s also written horror novels such as Ego Homini Lupus and No End Will Be Found. Additionally this week we are excited to publish a new short comic by Julia Gfrörer, one of the preeminent horror cartoonists. Gfrörer plumbs the depths of despair, torment, and degradation in her comics in order to find nuggets of beauty and even humor.  Her caustically funny and grim comics include Laid Waste, Black Is the Color, Flesh And Bone, and Too Dark To See
  • The final week of January will be all about memoir. Autobiographical comics have long been an important genre in alternative comics, but a new wave of memorists has been digging deeper and from diverse perspectives seldom seen in years past. Our guest will be artist November Garcia, who will offer up her thoughts on memoir as someone who specializes in it. Garcia is one of the brightest new talents in autobiographical comics, and her comics include Foggy Notions, Rookie Moves, and her series Malarkey. She offers a hilarious and over-the-top view of her life that’s an interesting counterpoint to the seriousness of many memoirists. 

I look forward to seeing you in the comments, and the Best of the 2010’s material starts on Monday. See you all next week!

Edits: (1/5/2020): Gretchen Felker-Martin will no longer have a piece for SOLRAD this month due to a family loss. We express to her and her family our sincerest regrets and wish them love and peace.

Alex Hoffman is the Publisher of SOLRAD and the Secretary/Treasurer of its parent nonprofit organization, Fieldmouse Press. He has been a comics critic for Manga Widget, Comics Village, Sequential State, The Comics Journal, Comics MNT, and others.

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