Czap Books To Publish New Comics by Kwang, Suburbia and Zabarsky [Back Pages]
Czap Books is a new micropublisher from America, founded by Kevin Czapiewski. The goal of Czap is simple: to bring new works to print, and get notable comics in the hands of people who are going to love them.
The 2017 line consists of Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky, Don't Tell Me Not To Worry (I'll Worry All I Want) by Kelly Kwang, and Egg Creme #1 by Liz Suburbia, and Czap has taken to Kickstarter to fund the line, and has already hit the funding target of $12,500. That's an impressive feat, and testament to the drawing power of the three cartoonists. Czap Books has huge plans for the coming years, and this Kickstarter is just the start of it. Back Pages spoke to Czapiewski about the publisher's plans and what to expect for the future.
ComicsAlliance: What was the genesis of Czap Books? When did you first have the idea to start a micro-publisher?
Kevin Czapiewski: Czap Books started out as just me self-publishing my own comics and zines, and the pun was too good to pass up (it's pronounced "chapbooks"). When I realized how much space there was to fill on the table at a comics show, I started offering/insisting I sell work by my cartoonist friends.
That turned into having everyone be in an anthology together, which ultimately led to focusing on a single artist per project. I'm such a cheerleader, and I can't help but be passionate about comics, that it felt more or less natural to bang the drum for other people's work along with my own.
I'm not sure when I first got the idea, but a few years ago I saw an old comic Liz Suburbia did when we were 18 or so, in 2003. In the strip, there's a character, based on me, saying how in 10 years I would have a "comic book company." I guess I've always been pretty single-minded about being in comics.
CA: What do you want Czap Books to bring to the market? What do you want Czap to represent as a publisher?
KC: We try to seek out and publish comics that have a strong artistic voice. There's a lot of potential within comics, and work that explores those possibilities are especially interesting to me. I love poetry comics, for instance, and I tend to get excited about stuff that's more lyrical or visual.There can be divisiveness among different schools, or categories of independent comics, and I want Czap Books to represent a world without borders! In the end, I'm choosing according to my tastes as editor, but I want to be cognisant of what assumptions are going unquestioned, and why.
I also want us to be a people-first publisher. Art is so important to me, but it's more important to not have the human beings making it and consuming it not be overshadowed or placed second.
CA: You're publishing three works for 2017. How did you decide what projects you wanted to bring onboard? Was this something where you approached the artists about existing works, or were they all created with Czap in mind?
KC: The three projects came together based on the artists behind them, really. As I alluded to before, I've known Liz Suburbia for quite a long time, and it just so happens that my best friend is one of the best cartoonists I know. We've wanted to work on a bigger project together for a while, and events transpired to have it end up being Egg Creme. It's a new project she's creating for us, but it's continuing a story she's had in the works for a while.
I've also known Jessi for a few years, and just like with Liz, she had an open invitation. I've been distributing the serialized Witchlight at conventions, kind of with the implicit idea that Czap Books would put out the collection. Of the three, Witchlight is almost entirely pre-existing material, "remastered" and touched up for the collection. It also contains the final chapter, which has not been seen outside of the book.
Kelly Kwang's book, Don't Tell Me Not To Worry (I'll Worry All I Want), is the one most being made with Czap Books in mind. Even then, it's building off of her art practice from the past several years that doesn't fall under her Space Youth Cadets concept --- which was just collected and presented in an amazing issue of Youth In Decline's Frontier. Kelly and I were able to get together and really figure out all the details of the book production, though, which was very cool.
CA: Let's look at them one at a time, then, starting with Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky. What was it about the book that first caught your attention as a publisher?
KC: I simply wanted to work with Jessi on anything she might make, particularly because her ornate drawing and page design really stands apart, and... just knowing her work and her outlook on comics, I have such an affinity for it. Witchlight has all of that in there, and it's also a distillation of her influences into a really personal work. As I've been going over the whole thing to put into the book, it really underscores how efficient and powerful her writing is.
It's essentially a love story, both loving another person but also loving yourself. I think that's a very important thing for a book to be about, and Witchlight handles it in a sophisticated, moving way. Also, I have to say that Jessi's designs and concepts for everything --- the witches, the settings, the flora --- are just amazing and inventive in a valuable way.
CA: As mentioned, we also have Don't Tell Me Not To Worry (I'll Worry All I Want) by Kelly Kwang. Kelly has a pretty unique approach to comics storytelling, right? What made this something you wanted to help publish?
KC: I've followed Kelly's work online over the past few years, and the way she combines drawing, fashion, photography and design in ways that make genuinely unique comics is not something you come across often. She was at the top of my list of artists I wanted to work with for a long time. Part of what appeals to me so much about Kelly's work is that it's amazingly cool (and this is reflected through her entire aesthetic), but it's so warm towards people.
I feel like so much of it is personal to her, but it's really easy to relate as a stranger. Her voice as an artist is acknowledging of our flaws and weaknesses (band-aids and scars appear throughout), but it's not judgemental, it's understanding and hopeful. There's this quality of fearless empathy --- I think that's a quality that exists in most if not all of the work we publish.
CA: And then there's Egg Creme #1 by Liz Suburbia. What can we expect from Liz's newest?
KC: The centerpiece of Egg Creme as an ongoing project will be the sequel to Liz's 2015 graphic novel, Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart was about a town full of strangely parent-less teenagers who, left to their own devices, got up to a whole bunch of reckless behavior. This included an increasing number of murders until finally a biblical deluge rains down on the Northern Virginia town (Christian/Catholic imagery frames the entire story; the main character Ben Schiller suffers from stigmata).
Despite that sensational description, it's largely a relatable story about teen angst. Egg Creme #1 catches up with Ben in a bar 10 years later. Many people responded to Liz's portrayal of teenagers in the first Sacred Heart, and I expect we'll all be as impressed with how she depicts the characters in their mid-twenties.
CA: How hands-on do you consider yourself, as publisher? Are you concerned with stock, quality, format and design of the books?
KC: Yes, all of that. Aside from representing comics I love, my favorite part of publishing is putting a book together, start to finish. I've been fairly hands-off as an editor, though, instead placing a great deal of trust in each cartoonist's vision for their work. I have been learning more and more to see the difference between being overbearing and being a good editor, so as we go forward I may grow into that role.
CA: Why come to Kickstarter for this? What will the money raised from Kickstarter mean for the comics, and Czap as a whole?
KC: Last year, I decided to really make a big push for Czap Books to level up, so that we can better serve the work we're publishing, and do more good in and for the comics community. An inevitable part of that is building up money, usually by asking for it (or so the podcast StartUp has led me to believe).
Out of the various options I looked into, I figured that Kickstarter would be worth trying because of the personal aspect to it --- you're appealing directly to the community to take part in your project through their generosity --- and because having a public fundraiser like this can get people looking in your direction.
The money from the Kickstarter means that the comics will be assured to come out on schedule. For Czap Books as a whole, it means greater stability as it adds to the pool of working capital. We won't be scraping our knees in the shallow end so much anymore, you know what I mean? It should mean that we'll be able to make better offers to artists. We'll be able to plan further in advance, and hopefully spread our reach even further.
CA: What’s your estimated delivery on the final books?
KC: Witchlight is planned to debut as early as this December, with an official release in early 2017. We're planning to have Don't Tell Me Not To Worry debut next May at TCAF, Kelly's hometown show. Egg Creme #1 is estimated for December 2017. So the collection really spans the length of the year.
CA: What are your ambitions for the future of Czap? Do you have plans for further books in 2017, and beyond?
KC: I want us to further hone our identity as a publisher by the artists we choose to work with moving forward. I want us to grow more, but not too much. I've always looked to small punk labels as a kind of template of what I aspire to --- there's a label out of DC called Sister Polygon that makes tapes. Consistently great. I want to be like that, for comics.
I co-publish a line of comics with Grindstone Comics (run by cartoonist L Nichols) called Ley Lines, and we're in the middle of our 2017 schedule (it's quarterly). Ley Lines is intended to highlight influences outside of comics. We just had one by Mimi Chrzanowski inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, and the next two will be by myself, doing a comic influenced by performance artist Bas Jan Ader (August '17), and by Laila Milevski, taking on Gothic Architecture (November '17). Subscriptions for the current year and past issues are all available on the Ley Lines site.
Beyond that, I'm planning for 2018 right now, and there will be more to say about that later...
Czap Books will be running their Kickstarter until 26 August 2016, having already hit their funding target of $12,500. To find out more, head to their crowdfunding page here!