The Bay Area has a rich love for cartoons, graphic novels, and comic books; there is the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, the Cartoon Art Museum, and many comic stores in San Francisco. American comics began in the 19th century during the era of sensationalist journalism. Comics served as entertainment for mass readership, and in the 20th century, comics became an autonomous art. It was during what’s referred to as the Golden Age of Comic Books from 1938-1956 when the superhero archetype was created, introducing many well-known fictional characters such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The popularity of these characters helped make comic books a significant branch of publishing.
The existence of comics later developed into graphic novels as long-form versions of the works, although the origins of the term are contested and open to interpretation. Around the same time, and with the development of newer technologies, zines grew alongside comics and graphic novels as its art form, which relies on self-publishing original or appropriated text and images reproduced with photocopiers. It was popularized particularly within the science fiction fandom in the mid-20th century. Comics, graphic novels, and zines are integral to American culture and beyond.
In line with 836M’s mission to bring the multidisciplinary art-making process directly to the bystander’s consciousness, 836M proudly presents Cartoonists, an exhibition offering a unique opportunity to witness a process that the viewer rarely sees. Visual storytelling ignites imaginations and provides colorful and accessible ways to provide insight and interpretation on current events and distill news and opinions through characters or caricatures.
During this four-month exhibition and residency, four authors and artists, Rina Ayuyang (co-curator), Tyler Cohen, Janelle Hessig, and Thien Pham, will be creating new work on the theme of the history of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, past, present, and future.
The residency and adjacent programming will offer insight into the process of making a comic, zine, or graphic novel, the challenges artists face, and topics related to technology and techniques and the future of comic making.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Rina was always inspired by the Sunday newspaper funnies and slice-of-life tales. Her short stories have been nominated for the Ignatz and Eisner awards, and she has been honored with a MoCCA Arts Festival Awards of Excellence silver medal. Ayuyang’s comics have appeared in Mutha Magazine and The Comics Journal. Her first book published by Drawn & Quarterly was Blame This on the Boogie, which appeared on best-of-year lists from Forbes, London Free Press, and on Publishers Weekly’s Critics Poll. Ayuyang’s new book, The Man in The McIntosh Suit, released earlier this year, is a Filipino-American take on Depression-era noir featuring mistaken identities, speakeasies, and lost love in San Francisco’s Manilatown. Ayuyang lives in Oakland, CA, with her husband and son.
Tyler is a cartoonist, graphic designer, and educator. Their book, Primahood: Magenta, won the 2017 Bisexual Book Award for Graphic Memoir. Tyler’s work has appeared online at MuthaMagazine.com and PEN Illustrated and in print in numerous anthologies, including the Eisner Award-winning Drawing Power and Ignatz Award-winning Qu33r.
Also known as Janelle Blarg, she is a Bay Area writer, cartoonist, and multimedia humorist. In 1990, while other bad kids were making secret bongs in her high school Crafts class, she made her first publication, Tales of Blarg, which became a definitive and influential East Bay punk fanzine. This sparked a lifetime love of publishing and collaborative art projects. She published and illustrated The Cruising Diaries, a collection of writer Brontez Purnell’s erotic anecdotes, which was later adapted into an expanded edition and published by Silver Sprocket.
Her autobiographical comics can be found in numerous periodicals and comics anthologies published by Three Rivers Press, Silver Sprocket, Popula, Maximum RocknRoll, and Vice, but can be most often found in its xeroxed and ephemeral natural habitat of self-publishing.
Her love of the Bay Area is reflected in artwork commissioned by beloved local institutions like Lovely’s Burgers and Oakland’s Mosswood Meltdown music festival. She’s been a touring drummer, a pop culture journalist, the subject of a seminal riot grrrl album, and the Marketing Director for storied San Francisco publisher Last Gasp. She works in public media and lives with her dog, Carl, in Oakland.
Thien is a graphic novelist, comic artist, and educator in Oakland, CA. He is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Sumo and did the art for the middle-grade graphic novel Level Up, written by Gene Luen Yang. His Latest Book, Family Style, is a memoir about his family’s immigration to America told through the lens of food. Currently, Pham is working on his next graphic novel, teaching, and eating (a lot).