Tag Archive for 'True Swamp'

Spring 2015 + Uncivilized Books

Here it is! Today, we officially announce Uncivilized Books’ Spring 2015 line-up. This season sees us returning to work with some of Uncivilized’s staple artists as well as stretch our legs with someone new.

Our subscription deal is available on our website. We are also offering pre-orders for individual books. The plan is:


Borb by Jason Little

Borb by Jason Little (Shutterbug Follies, Motel Art Improvement Service) is the story of a severely alcoholic homeless man, a downtrodden urban Candide whose misfortunes pile up at an alarming rate. The narrative is presented as a series of daily newspaper strips as the author pays homage to the depression-era imagery of Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie) and Frank King (Gasoline Alley) and the long and complex tradition of the comic strip slapstick vagabond archetype. At once hilarious, horrifying, and full of heart, Borb depicts the real horrors specific to present-day urban homelessness. Borb is Jason Little’s most complex and challenging work.

Jason Little is the author of the Bee books: Shutterbug Follies (winner of two Ignatz awards) and Motel Art Improvement Service. His Jack’s Luck Runs Out comic book was the first Xeric winner to be printed in full color. He also teaches in the cartooning program at the School of Visual Arts. Jason lives in Brooklyn with writer Myla Goldberg and their two daughters.

ISBN 978-1-941250-02-0
Hardcover, b&w, 96 Pages, $19.95
April, 2015

Pre-order here.


Robot Investigator by Vincent Stall

Robot Investigator by Vincent Stall (Things You Carry) follows a lonely robot on an expedition to a mysterious planet that looks a lot like Earth. The story unfolds like a parallel universe Wall-E as the robot explores what appears to be a pristine landscape. He meets curious gerbil-like animals and stumbles on… a band of feral humans. Who were they? Why did they turn into wild men? Robot Investigator is both sweet and melancholy, cute and grisly. Stall’s silent sequences are drawn with an inky, lush, and elegant line filled with expressionistic colors. Robot Investigator is Stall’s masterpiece. The book also includes a brand new story and sixteen-page robot parts catalog.

Vincent Stall is an artist, cartoonist, and designer. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

ISBN 978-1-941250-04-4
Hardcover, color, 100 Pages, $19.95
Jul, 2015

Pre-order here.


True Swamp: Book 2 by Jon Lewis

True Swamp: Book 2 continues the misadventures of Lenny the Frog. The world of True Swamp grows to include inventor marmots, a living book, the cave-dwelling custodian of the swamp’s one true religion, and most fatefully of all, the walking fungus known as Nikolas Underwoods. The stories collected are the very best of True Swamp and were placed on the Time magazine’s “Top Ten Comics of 2000″ list.

Jon Lewis began True Swamp in 1992. It continues today. Other comics include Ghost ShipSpectacles, and scripts for DC, Dark Horse and Kodansha Publishing. Lewis came to prominence as one of a tight-knit wave of early 90s Seattle cartoonists who brought new narrative ambition to alternative comics. He lives in Brooklyn.

ISBN 978-0-9889014-9-0
Hardcover, b&w, 140 pages, $19.95
Jun, 2015

Pre-order here.

Jon Lewis cameo in Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips’s Fatale

Comic Book Resources published an interesting interview with Ed Brubaker yesterday, discussing the series wrap on he and Sean Phillips’s Fatale.

Jon Lewis appears in the book for a story set in Seattle in the 90s, and while his character ends up dead, it’s still a cool nod. It reads like a companion piece to Brubaker’s introduction to True Swamp: Choose Your Poison.

A lot of people didn’t think they were going to stop in Seattle in the ’90s, Ed.

Yeah. I was stuck there for a long time in the ’90s. [Laughter] It was a lot of fun, though. A few of my old friends from the indie comics scene really loved that arc because it felt like I was taking what I do now and blending it with something like “Lowlife.” Two of the main characters in the band in that story are based on old cartoonist friends of mine — Jon Lewis and Tom Hart. We used to be roommates in a house together and do zines and stuff. So a lot of that stuff was real things we’d talk about. It feels real to me because they’re some of my oldest friends. It was a lot of fun to put them in my comic and kill them. [Laughs] I warned them ahead of time when they gave me permission to use their likenesses that they would probably die badly.

Read the full interview here. Also, check out Jon’s work. It paints an interesting picture of a certain era. Order True Swamp: Choose Your Poison here.

True Swamp on Hazel & Wren

Our recent collection of Jon Lewis’ True Swamp: Choose Your Poison gets a really nice review at the excellent Hazel & Wren site. Aaron King says:

By diverging from that traditional display of world-building, Lewis presents us with an organic world that’s still a work in progress. As opposed to the metaphorical glass castles of Tolkien or the beautifully intricate machine that is Larry Marder’s Beanworld, True Swamp feels like an expansive backyard to stomp through and build forts in. Reading through it, I want to turn over rocks and tear down branches, and I want to come back months later to see how the seasons affect it.

There much more, check it out.

True Swamp 1 & 2 Review

True Swamp No. 2 by Jon Lewis

I don’t think we linked to this review of our True Swamp mini-comics.

There’s a lot going on in True Swamp, all of which is pretty fun. From the marmot mad scientist, to the weird homunculus Nikolas who can speak to fungi, to the fascination with the sexual habits of various creatures, it’s a unique experience. My favorite bits include Wallace the bird, who is a secret magician and has a sidekick stick-bug wand. The bird from the future comes back to speak to his younger self, as True Swamp tries to impart glimpses of this secret knowledge that emphasizes an appreciation for naturalism. Also? The animals swear. And swearing animals is funny!

Read the entire review here.

Vintage Jon Lewis Interview

Jon Lewis’ True Swamp has been getting some well deserved attention (like this great interview at CBR). While reading that interview, we stumbled on an older one, where Jon talked about a (then) recent bout of media exposure and the (then) new True Swamp comics that followed his well received run now collected in True Swamp: Choose Your Poison. Here’s a sample where Jon discussed some of his influences:

Of course, having intelligent and self-aware creatures roaming a swamp, mixing introspection in with their adventures brings Walt Kelly’s legendary “Pogo” comic strip to mind. While Lewis was aware of “Pogo,” it wasn’t the influence on him that other works, outside of comics and sequential art, were.

“It wasn’t something I really thought about since I was coming much more from the Beatrix Potter and ‘The Wind in the Willows’ end of things — these were huge early-childhood influences that predated and probably even influenced any real nature-experiences in my life. I know I took some visual riffs from ‘Pogo,’ but I think I got them second-generation from Pogo-loving cartoonists, because my own exposure to ‘Pogo’ has been extremely limited. The character of Hale looks fairly Pogo-esque and like everybody I’m always putting in those squat, wavery trees that Walt Kelly patented. Anyway, for some reason, even though Beatrix Potter, ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ ‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh,’ et al, always depicted animals as sort of miniature people with jackets and satchels and little houses in the underbrush, I felt certain that my characters should be plain animals, living in holes, eating beetles, having to use their mouths to pick things up ’cause they’ve got no thumbs. They’ve got culture for sure, but no appurtenances. The glaring exception is Hale, the swamp’s only inventor, who has trained his paws to be able to grasp things, and who has a laboratory under a tortoise shell. The story ostensibly takes place in North America, but if I feel like using a kiwi or a gibbon or an iguana I don’t let that stop me; and the cast isn’t confined to real animals — there’s fungus people and grotesque fairies and a ball of fire named Willie.”

Check out the rest of the interview here.

True Swamp Vine Voice Review

An amazing customer ‘Vine Voice’ review of True Swamp appeared on Amazon.com:

I came up with a number of potential headlines for this Amazon review of True Swamp:

“American poet”
“Classic from Seattle’s grunge comics scene”
“How can a comic about talking frogs and a foul-mouthed marmot be so moving and achingly human?”

But ultimately the one I chose above is the place I must start from. Reading True Swamp again close to 20 years after encountering it around 1994, I can reach no conclusion other than that True Swamp is a genuine classic of the medium, and readers familiar with the others — Sandman, Cerebus, Watchmen, take your pick — owe it to themselves to check it out.


On the surface, Lewis seems to follow few rules of “normal” storytelling. Situations meander into one another, running on pure, sometimes hallucinatory inspiration. Only later, at the end of the chapters, does the reader see how well thought-out the plotting often actually is, for instance issue #2, which floats along in its dreamy, organic, loose way, until suddenly you realize you’ve been reading a tightly structured pulp horror/detective story, complete with some clever plot twists.

There is a confidence to this material that is surprising for such a young man (Lewis began True Swamp at age 21) and someone whose drawing initially seemed so unpolished. The art evolves practically page to page, and by quantum leaps compared to his minicomic art for issue #1, included in this hardcover. Given Lewis’s age and apparent lack of experience, everything about True Swamp *should* have come out as amateur — the art, the writing, the world-building — but none of it does. The combination of confidence and raw talent is something we’ve seen before, but not usually in comics. We’ve seen it in places like rock and roll, punk, grunge.

I see True Swamp as a grunge comics classic. Lewis did create True Swamp in Seattle, in the early 90′s, among a vibrant scene of comic book artists who drew rough and scratchy artwork, and True Swamp is characterized by much of what’s considered the grunge ethos: concerned above all with authenticity (check), full of distortion, fueled by raw energy over technical skill (especially in the original #1, issue #2, and a certain commitment to raw artwork even when Lewis’s drawing had evolved by miles in the later issues), and apathetic, angsty, or depressive lyrics (three adjectives that describe most of True Swamp‘s denizens).

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Read the rest of the review here, and order a copy while you’re there ;)

Jon Lewis Interviewed by CBR

There’s a great interview with Jon Lewis on Comic Book Resources. There’s a lot of new information that even we didn’t know… and we published the book!

Reading Ed Brubaker’s introduction to the book and your afterword, it sounds as if the ’90s comics scene in Seattle was a really exciting time for people who were interested in the medium. I don’t want to make you repeat anything you already wrote about, but what was it that you found so inspiring as a young cartoonist?

When I got there in 1990 I was an egg that thought it was already a moth. I wasn’t even a larva yet. The bunch of minicomics I had done were “interesting” at best, but often just indigestible. I got there and met heroes of mine like Jim Woodring and Pete Bagge who were very nice to me, very avuncular, for which I’m forever grateful. But it wasn’t until Tom Hart moved there too, and then Ed Brubaker pretty soon after that, that I got some of the harsher perspective I needed. Because we were more like peers, and they wanted to reach higher in what they were doing, and I had been too easy on myself with my dada little scribbly things and needed to be infected by that kind of ambition. And before that, it also never occurred to me that if I pushed myself towards something more coherent, more than a dozen people might care about the work. In other words, the water I was in and the water Jim Woodring and Pete Bagge and Chester Brown were in weren’t divided like a little pond and a great ocean with no connection between; there was a stream linking it all up and you could get down that stream by work. That was a mind-exploding notion.

It helped us, too, to have the older group of artists and Fantagraphics folks right there to sort of push ourselves against, you know. We wanted to show we had something to bring to the table and there’s always that spirit of revolt when you’re in your early 20s and the ethos that developed in our little clique was storytelling, storytelling, storytelling. Everything in service of the story. We were really zealots about that. By then it was me, Tom, Ed, Megan Kelso, David Lasky, Jason Lutes and James Sturm. We would get together at one of our houses every week and critique the shit out of each other’s work in progress. A couple of times some other cartoonist our age would come to those meetings, and afterward they’d be like, “This is not fun,” and never come again. But it was fun! It was harsh but it was fun.

Read the rest here, it’s great!

True Swamp review in ForeWord Magazine

A nice review of Jon Lewis’ True Swamp: Choose Your Poison just appeared in the current issue of ForeWord Magazine. Here’s a taste:

There are any number of clever ways of categorizing True Swamp, each of them more or less accurate; most recently, I’ve taken to referring to it as a profane post-punk Pogo. However, the single word that all of those descriptions must necessarily include is “brilliant.”

A reader coming upon this book unawares might not be immediately inclined to use that adjective. At first glance, Jon Lewis’s art seems too raw to serve its purpose, with final pages that can closely resemble extremely rough, even unfinished, layouts. But behind and beneath that loose, cartoony facade lurks a masterful grasp of both the conception and execution of the visual narrative, attributes that make True Swamp a comic of the highest order.

Read the rest here.

True Swamp / Post York Release Party

Jon Lewis Decibel Interview

Last year Decibel Magazine writer Nick Green conducted a long interview with Jon Lewis. Most of it didin’t see the light of day in the short piece that appeared in the magazine. Jon got permission to post it on his site. It’s an extremely well done interview with lots of revealing information about Jon’s art and the genesis of the work collected in the new True Swamp book. Here’s a few paragraphs:

How did you become interested in comics?

I think I started drawing my childish comics before I was a comic book fan. I got into comics when I was 6 or 7 – mostly Marvel stuff. I don’t really remember how that happened. I do remember that I decided that I was too cool for comics when I was around 10. But then, when I turned 12, me and my friends all fell back into comic fandom in a big way together. We’d all ride the city bus to downtown St. Paul on Saturdays to spend all of our money on Marvel shit.  By middle school, me and a couple of my friends started to draw our own comics. They were standard, run-of-the-mill knock-offs of the books we were reading, except the characters had animal heads and names slightly altered from Marvel characters. Those comics didn’t really have panels; the format was more like a bunch of text accompanied by 1 or 2 drawings per page. We had no idea you could photocopy things at the time—everything was a pencil edition of 1 to be passed around.

I didn’t really start drawing comics that were graphically-driven until I got really sick with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 14 and had to drop out of high school in my senior year because I was too sick to go. I spent 3 or 4 years, roughly from when I was 17-21 years old, being at home almost all of the time because I was sick. That was when I realized that you could make a comic by taking it to Kinko’s. It never dawned on me that you could take a comic to a copy shop and, here’s the key point, have it printed on both sides of the paper! During that sick era, I found Factsheet Five and another publication called Comics F/X that reviewed mini comics. I started doing mini comics and trading them with other people when I was 18. That was my first self-conscious attempts to do things “seriously.” I met a lot of people during those mail-trading days, including Tom Hart who remains my best friend.

How did you go from self-publishing minis to working on the True Swamp series?

For about 3 years, I just did lots of minis that weren’t really very concerned with presentation or giving the reader something cohesive to chew on. They were aggressively art-for-art’s sake. I thought I knew better than everyone and that I was this, like, post-everything artist that was doing these bizarre stories to mess with people’s heads. The reality was that they were terribly drawn and obtuse. I grew up in the Twin Cities and moved to Seattle when I was about to turn 20. Soon, so did Tom Hart.

[Discussion follows of the move to Seattle, the comics scene there, Tom and I growing more ambitious about our comics, and our friendship/housemateship with Ed Brubaker, and the creation of the first several issues of True Swamp. For these subjects, I refer you to my Afterword and Ed’s Foreword to the new book, which between them cover the subject thoroughly. Now we skip ahead to 1993, with the first four issues of True Swamp completed…]

So I had this packet of the first 4 issues, which I submitted for a Xeric grant to self-publish… Stockpiling all of that material and putting it out very rapidly in 1994 helped cement a modest foothold in the independent comics scene at the time. It also didn’t hurt that Diamond refused to distribute the first couple of issues because of the “rough” artwork. I became a minor cause celebre after that—I had articles written about me in The Comics Journal and Comics Buyers Guide suggesting that Diamond had tried to freeze out a young, self-publishing cartoonist. I got way more attention from that than if Diamond had just simply accepted the books for distribution from the beginning. Especially since they accepted True Swamp with issue #3, anyway.

[Addendum: Diamond would repeat history in 2012 by refusing to carry Uncivilized Bookshardcover edition of the early True Swamp. The blow was cushioned this time by the fact that we have an awesome book trade distributor in Consortium, and by the existence of robust online arteries, but I am at root an old time comics shop dude and the fact that the new book will be unavailable to many comics shops really galls me.]

The rest is here. It’s a great read.