Kilgore Books & Comics

publishing fine comics since 2009

Why should you should back our Kickstarter/give Kilgore your money:

Dan StaffordComment

This summer, we’re putting out nine new comics from Noah Van Sciver, M.S. Harkness, Alex Nall, Emi Gennis, Robert Sergel, Alex Graham, Mike Freiheit, Ines Estrada, and Tom Van Deusen. This, to me, is the dream team. The only thing missing is Sam Spina. But guess what? We just put out a comic of his in December, and you can get that in many of the reward levels. 

Maybe that slate of incredible artists/storytellers doesn’t convince you — well how about this. 

Why should you pitch in? 

First of all, if you don’t do it, these books may not exist. Kilgore specializes in finding interesting & unique voices in independent comics and giving them a signal boost by publishing their work. Who knows how long it will take for another publisher to put out one of these books, or for these fine folks to self-publish. And if that happens, you may never come across their work, which would be a damn shame. 

Second of all, there’s zero risk. All of the books are finished, or nearly finished. We’re set up with our printer, and we’ve done three other successful campaigns. Everyone has gotten their rewards in a timely manner. Back today and you’ll get an awesome box of books in about a hundred days. Delivered to your door! 

Third of all, this is a time to support art. There are a lot of reasons America is not a great place right now. Supporting the arts is at least one way to remember what is so very great about our country. 

Fourth of all, if you don’t care about #2, what about just supporting artists? Letting them know that there are people who’ll take a chance on their work encourages them to keep going, and to keep getting better. On some level aren’t all humans just seeking to connect with other humans in an attempt to stave off the void? Well, comics help! 

Fifth of all, 97% of comics out there (mainstream or independent) are super-hero, fantasy, or sci-fi. Kilgore represents the 3% of comics that have humorous, literary, or memoir content. I don’t want to slag the 97%, but I do want to champion the 3%. These are vibrant young artists, doing important work.

Ok, if you’ve read this far but aren’t convinced just send me an email. Let me know your reservations. What’s holding you back? I’ll get back to you right away to address your concerns and, hopefully, help get you on board. 

Nine days to go, and we really need you. Just go here and watch the video — check out the stuff a little.

I thank you so much for your time. 

Some thoughts on humor

Dan StaffordComment

Comedy is significantly harder than drama and, I think, more important. Drama is life, comedy is relief from life. Drama is day in/day out/repeat. Comedy is dealing with the day in/day out.

Yet as a society we really undervalue comedy. We think of laughs as cheap and casually throw them away. We give awards to serious dramatists, and spend our money on escapism. Within most mass culture, the most popular stories either serious, falling into the drama/thriller/horror pile, or are escapist, and fall into the action/adventure/western/musical pile.

And that gives comedy short shrift. The importance of humor is that it allows us to look at tragedies in life and process them. The serious stuff is important because it forces us to look at a problem. Maus made us look at the Holocaust with fresh eyes. Persepolis made us consider a child’s take on civil war and extremism. And, while I don’t particularly care for it, escapism/fantasy is a way for people to cope with the seriousness of life. However, when one is done escaping, those problems still exist. Comedy, on the other hand, makes us look at a problem or situation, analyze it, and synthesize a response. Yeah, that’s right, it’s higher-level Bloom’s Taxonomy people.

Part of the reason comedy is maligned is because there is so much BAD comedy/humor out there. First there’s all the racist, homophobic, trans-phobic, misogynistic comedy, then there’s pabulum like The King of Queens or The Big Bang Theory. But I believer the fact that there is so much dreck comedy actually proves humor’s importance.

Want to make people tear up? Go film some trees getting clear-cut, slap a Joni Mitchel song on it. Bam, enviro documentary. Want to see people really choke up? Go film some footage of Syria, add some Adagio for Strings and a voiceover. Recording drama or tragedy isn’t hard because it is all around us. We do not create it, it just is, and we need only to turn the camera/pen on. Make a comic about your alcoholic father or absentee mother. It can be a not-great comic, but people will still slowly nod their heads and say how brave you are (and, for the record, you are).

But comedy looks at that tragedy, that horror, that drama, squarely, and responds to it.

We can use satire,  dry humor, or slapstick to show the ridiculous comedy of errors that lead to Syria, or the hypocrisy of clear cutting, or that your dad is an buffoon. Here’s the thing, though. If we get it wrong, suddenly we’re making fun of you your (or Syria’s or Earth’s) pain. And that’s not cool. Which is why there is so much weak ineffectual comedy out there.

Humor can be used as a weapon far more than drama or escapism. Has anyone every cut you down to size with the truth about arsenic in your drinking water? Nope. But has anyone made fun of you for the way you look/act/dress? Yep, me too. Humor can hurt, can sting, can be personally assaulting in a way those other genres cannot. So comedy and humor are dulled down until it is palatable - and that’s how we got Friends (which, by the way, is super duper homophobic).

Humor is riskier, harder to get right, and - when it’s on the mark - far more effective than other genres. And that’s why Kilgore publishes humor comics. When Robert Sergel is asked by a TSA agent, ‘Do you have a boner?’ it’s funny. Boner is a funny word. But then you realize it’s a government agent asking a civilian about his genitals. That’s shockingly inappropriate, and makes you ask some questions.

And this is why humor are so important to me. Because humor does more than make you think. It makes you face a situation, address it, analyze it, and have a response to it. Humor can cut a problem down to size too. In the face of the gallows, people turn to humor, not drama or Darth Vader.

Get to know a creator - Alex Nall

Dan StaffordComment

I conducted this interview with Alex Nall via email this week. Over the next couple weeks, I'll post interviews from all the creators in this line up. 

I don't remember when I first met Alex, but I do know I love his work. I first really became aware of him when he put out his book, 'Teaching Comics' a few years ago. I've read a number of comics from teachers, but something about Alex's work stood out to me. A lot of those books focus on the kids - funny things said, sad things observed, but Alex focused on teaching in a larger way that really spoke to his own experience which, while universal, was extremely personal. Then he shot out like a cannon with 'Let Some Word That is Heard Be Yours,' his biography of Mr. Rogers. 

And again, I've read so many comics biographies, but Alex's focus on the personal gave the story a depth and reliability that most comic biographies simply don't have. I gladly backed his work on Indiegogo, loaned him my son's trolley for CAKE, and was ecstatic to say, 'whatever you want to do next, please do it with Kilgore'. 

Alex came up with a 100 page book about an election in a small town, where everything goes a little haywire. I haven't read the whole thing, but what I have is full of his characteristic tenderness towards his characters, and sense of optimism. Anyway, I asked him some questions, and here they are. Check out his work at

1. How long have you been a teacher? Why did you get into teaching? What do you love/hate about it?

I've been a teaching artist since 2013. I fell into teaching on a fluke. While working as a janitor at a fitness center, I went into a bar, sat down, doodled on some paper napkins and when my hostess saw that I was drawing, she recommended me to an after school program her step-mother was in charge of. I applied, having nothing really stopping me despite the fact I had no teaching experience in a public school setting, and incredulously, I got the job. I've enjoyed it for the most part, my favorite part probably just making comics with students, selling them at conventions, and telling them what people say about their work. Adolescence is a pretty dreadful experience all around, and I could tell it really made their day to know that someone out there was reading their work and appreciating it. What I don't like about teaching is having to sometimes play the role of "the bad guy". I'm a pretty non-confrontational person to begin with, so having to do things like giving kids time-outs, lectures, or raising my voice is always a challenge, but I know it's part of the job. I guess I'm going to have to get better at being Mean ol' Mr. Nall. A friend who is also a teacher recently told me that when he has to be strict, he tries to balance it by being funny too. Even students who know they're in trouble, can trust a teacher that's funny. 

2. Why did you do the Mr. Rogers book?

I've always been fascinated by Fred Rogers' peaceful demeanor and approach to teaching kids. I started writing 'Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours' simply to find out more about the man I admired. As I continued to work on it, I thought it would be interesting to focus primarily on Rogers' role in educational programming, and compare/contrast it with my own experiences as an educator. This is the 50th anniversary of 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' and it's been really rewarding to see him and the work he did on that show back in the news. 

3. Who are some good comparisons for your work?

I'm not too sure. I've heard some people compare Teaching Comics to some of Kevin Budnik's diary comics, who I'm a big fan and admirer of. Teaching Comics started as a daily-diary exercise in the vein of James Kochalka's 'American Elf' strips. Without trying to "write like them", I'm influence by writers and artists that take on a story through alternate perspectives: Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few.

4. Tell us about Lawns - what's the inspiration? What do you hope people get out of it?

'Lawns' is sort of an ensemble story about a small town in the rural Midwest, vaguely based off of the town I grew up in. The main conflict in the story is between a hermetic loner who refuses to mow his lawn and his brash and bitter next-door neighbor. There are of course consequences to this seemingly-non consequential grievance. I've always enjoyed fiction writing that explores a story from difference perspectives and this is my attempt to do that. My hope is that readers enjoy the story and can empathize with some of the characters and their situations.

5. Who are three cartoonists everyone should read more?

My friend Ben Nadler is a great cartoonist. His work is very imaginative and fun. His collection 'Sonder #1' is worth checking out! Isabella Rotman is making incredibly important and graceful work on sex-education. Her inking skills make my jaw drop. Ben Passamore writes and draws stories about race, class, and political action such a razor-sharp intensity. His stories should be shared and discussed. I'm very excited for his collected stories 'Your Black Friend' to be released this year.

6. What got you into comics?

I've been drawing and making comics/art since I can remember, but I remember a critical moment for me was discovering American Splendor by Harvey Pekar. It's been said before, but I was enthralled at how a normal everyday guy could write about his life and make it so intriguing. I'm sure that had a lot to do with the variety of artists Harvey worked with. Regardless, it was the comic book that changed my focus on making "funny" newspaper-style influenced work to more personal and examined reflections on moments in my life.

7. What's your dream project?

I'd like to take all of the folders of comics I have by my elementary students and have "professional" cartoonists adapt into complete stories. Kids really are the best writers because they have no filter and aren't bogged down by indecision or the judgement of others. If they want to write about a story set in Hogwarts and all the witches and wizards are talking fruits, nothing's going to stop them. Seeing something like that drawn by a more refined cartoonist with a certain style and technique would be really cool. 

8. Who wins a fight, Mr. Rogers or Jim Henson?

Mister Rogers, an adamant pacifist, wouldn't raise a hand to Henson, especially if he was wielding someone as abrasive as Miss Piggy. However, the real debate has already been answered here:

9. Who are you top three influences?

Ivan Brunetti's 'Schizo #4' is one of my favorite comics because it shows the artist searching for meaning in chaos- personal and cosmic, in a variety of styles and stories. I think about that book a lot whenever I start a project and embarrasingly use his 'deceptively-simple' shape figures as rough drafts for my own characters. While working on 'Lawns', I reread a lot of Los Bros Hernandez, especially the Palomar stories to get a sense of how to juggle so many characters in a shared setting- also how to adequately balance a page with a the right amount of white space and black spots. They're both the masters when it comes to that. Saul Steinberg is a major influence in how playful and nuanced his work is. As it's been said before, his work hovers on this delicate line of cartooning and high art that you can appreciate it from different angles. I try to remember what Chuck Jones' teacher told him when he was working on a drawing 'This looks good. It looks like you're having fun.' 

Music influences (just for fun) -Bob Dylan -Patti Smith -Tom Waits

Literature -John Irving -Lorrie Moore -James Baldwin

10. What should people know about you or your work?

I'm also an organizer for Chicago Zine Fest. I'm been organizing since 2014 and am really excited for this year's festival on May 18 and 19. Being part of creating an event for creative folks is a rush of joy, anxiety, manic frustration, and laughs. Every year I meet more and more zine/comics creators and my life is richer because of it. As for my work, I just enjoy creating and sharing stories that hopefully people will also enjoy, find some meaning in, and I hope to keep getting the opportunity to do that.

Why Do We Publish Comics?

Dan StaffordComment

The simple, classic story is that shortly after we opened in 2008, Noah Van Sciver came in and asked if we could sell copies of his comic, Blammo #1. We said sure, and took two. My partner and I Luke LOVED it, and so quickly asked for more. Every time we got some in, we'd sell out (because we were advocates for comics, but I'll discuss that more another time), and we'd harangue Noah for more. By issue #4, we discovered he was paying more to print each copy than the wholesale rate we paid him (50% of cover). So, we gave him $500 and said, 'print a bunch and give us a bunch'. Instead, he printed 50 copies of Blammo #6 in full color at $10 apiece, and priced them at $4. We got 10 copies to sell. So, for the next issue, Blammo #6, we took over printing his comic. That was in early 2010, and in the last eight years we've published about fifty comics, a bunch of prints, and made a movie. 

I think this story sums up 100% of why we publish comics. To me, the very best comics are simply a way for a person to grapple with the big questions and to share what they've found out. The very best comics show evidence of intellectual curiosity, of compassion, of humor, of any of the many mechanisms we have for dealing with the realities of life - which include joy, sorrow, boredom, excitement, beauty, ugliness, and ultimately, death. What is it all for, great comics ask. 

Cartoonists offer different answers, but our mission is to help those artists get their work out to others who may be asking the same questions. To make connections. To make people think, or laugh, or get choked up. 

Every year I say to my pals, 'I'm done. I'm sick of comics.' And then I'll stumble upon a Robert Sergel comic and I'll feel great. Mike or M.S. will hassle me at shows until I read their books, and when I do, I fall in love all over again with comics. Tom Van Deusen will make me spit coffee on his comics from laughter, and Noah will make me want to give him a big hug he doesn't want. And that's what happened this year. As of last spring, I was OUT. And then these beautiful, wonderful, delightfully curious individuals give me the reasons and strength to continue. 

I don't want to make too big a deal out of this, but right now, in this moment in our nationally history, and certainly in my life's story, so many of us are desperate for connection. For finding someone who says what we've been thinking, or who says what we didn't know we thought, but now does. It might seem trite, in the face of the evil that is taking over the world right now, to publish small disposable comics. But I can't think of a better way to cast out the darkness than to help -- in some real, human way -- bring people together. 

So, that's why I'm a publisher.