The work of legendary Fort Thunder co-founder and comic book artist Mat Brinkman just got a new shot on North American shelves. The Italian indie publisher Hollow Press has put out limited print runs of his influential collections Multi-Force and Teratoid Heights, and Portland comic retailer and publisher Floating World has taken on distribution duties in the States.
That's great news for fans of the Fort Thunder collective. Like most of the group's output, Brinkman's work had previously fallen out of print for years.
"He's one of those artists where there's not a lot of supply for the demand that's out there," Jason Leivian of Floating World told The Comics Journal. "It's nice that Hollow Press is working with Mat Brinkman to bring Multi-Force and Teratoid Heights back into print."
Leivian credited Michele Nitri, founder of Hollow Press, for his collaboration with artists like Brinkman, Tetsunori Tawaraya, Shintaro Kago, Luca Brandi, and more. "He's pretty good about reprinting stuff to keep it in print," Leivian said. Per Leivian, Nitri's business model at Hollow Press revolves around acquiring original pages and samples of art directly from the artist and reselling them, as well as printing limited-edition runs like these collected Brinkman volumes.
"I think that's thinking outside of the box and puts value on the original art," Leivian said, contrasting it with the more typical practice of back-end deals or advances. Floating World has committed to distributing Hollow Press's entire catalogue over the coming months, also handling wholesale distribution to other retailers, with Brinkman's books, originally printed in November 2018, as their launching point.
These Brinkman comics come packaged in weighty "museum edition" hardcovers, printed on heavy ivory paper stock. Multi-Force is presented in large-format preserving its originally printed size (11" x 16" paper, 44 pages, $50), while Teratoid Heights is a thicker, more compact volume (6" x 7" paper, 228 pages, $30). Both are wrapped in Imitlin black canvas covers embossed with hot foil. As is the case with many of Hollow Press's offerings, the books are being released in two editions, English and Italian. Used copies and older editions of the books currently go for as much as $150 or more at secondary-market outlets.
Interested readers can see the books themselves in photographs and of pages and art that Nitri has shared through the Hollow Press's website and YouTube channel. Previous editions of Multi-Force and Teratoid Heights were once available from the likes of Highwater Books, PictureBox Inc., and the Paper Rodeo 'zine Brinkman launched two decades ago. Brinkman and his Fort Thunder and Providence, Rhode Island contemporaries like Brian Chippendale, Ron Regé, Jessica Ciocci, Ben Jones, and other comic artists remain massively influential today almost 20 years since the community's first comics were Xeroxed out.
"I thought, 'This is my generation’s work.' That’s why I pursued it, and that’s why I published it," said Dan Nadel, a former editor at The Comics Journal and the original publisher of Multi-Force. He founded PictureBox Inc., has curated art shows and galleries, and has written extensively about Brinkman and his cohort. Nadel called him a "brilliant cartoonist [and a] funny, deadpan, insightful writer. Couldn’t really want anymore than that."
"Like other greats — [Gary] Panter and [Robert] Crumb come to mind," Nadel said, "[Brinkman] synthesized what had come before him and made work that invited you in — seemed familiar — but then twisted every formula."
"Multi-Force is the one in particular that, like, changed my life when I saw it for the first time," Leivian said. "I'd never seen comics like that before. It was super inspiring."
Floating World's deal makes these prestige comics all the more accessible for new readers. At current exchange rates, getting a copy of Multi-Force shipped to the US would cost $21.53; shipping from Floating World's Portland-based online store, meanwhile, is $5.35. It's not a steal, per se, especially given that even when exchange rates are taken into account, the books go for cheaper in Europe through Hollow Press, but it does get Brinkman's books on shelves where North American readers can see them.
Collectors and enthusiasts in North America interested in books like this can look forward to more from Hollow Press via Floating World. The agreement between Leivian and Nitri was contingent on distributing not just Brinkman's work, but the entire Hollow Press back catalogue. For now Leivian and Nitri plan on getting the books shipped en masse to the United States every three weeks or so. Within a couple months, Leivian will have the full catalogue for sale on the Floating World site, as well as available for wholesale distribution.
"I’m glad someone brought it back in print," Nadel said, pointing out that he often gets asked when the books would be back in print and that Brinkman has had "plenty of offers" to reprint them over the years. Brinkman avoids doing press and has no online presence, devoting his time and efforts to music and other pursuits. Nonetheless, Nadel said, his work still stands out.
"There’s no Adventure Time without Mat Brinkman and Paper Rodeo, for example," he said. "And without Adventure Time, near as I can tell, 75% of what’s on display at your local comic book 'festival' does not exist."
"Publishing Mat is not an act of bravery or vision," Nadel said. "It’s good business."