What is Happiness Comix? How did it come to be?
Happiness started out as a biannual comic anthology, but has evolved into more of an all-encompassing comics, arts & culture type of collection, coming out closer to once a year or less. I started it in 2011 with the intent of having a platform for up-and-coming alternative cartoonists to exhibit their comics. That’s still part of the intent but with the new issues, I’ve been trying to include other art mediums that I feel don’t interact enough with comics or vice-versa. I like the idea of an underground artistic community without barriers separating mediums, genres, and styles.
How do you go about curating your anthologies? Do you have a team of people working with you?
I curate the anthology by inviting artists, writing guidleines, reviewing submissions, and trying to effectively communicate with everyone contributor along the way. I feel that each contributor is “part of the team” that makes up Happiness, with the last issue having over 70 different contributors. Many of the comics are commissioned, and I try to set clear expectations for them, so I don’t usually have to edit the content of the comics too heavily (in fact they usually exceed my expectations). Only on occassion do I end up feeling that a comic isn’t appropriate for the book and I leave it out. Editing the writing submissions, interviews, and other text-dominant sections is the most involved part of putting the newest issues together, and I also do the book layout and design, which can take some time. My main outside help is my father, Ken, who copy-edits everything for spelling and grammar mistakes that I miss. And also, I don’t print or bind the books myself, that goes to LinCo, who are based in Long Island City, Queens.
You represent artists from all around the world how did this happen? Just by living in New York?
Nah, I think the internet and social media plays the main role here. I have discovered and maintained friendships with a lot of artists because of tumblr, for example. I also meet and befriend a lot of cartoonists at alternative comic expos, but we then keep in touch using email and social media. There are quite a few cartoonists living in New York that I get to see on a more regular basis, as well as a number of comics-related events taking place in New York that I’m able to attend to further meet and keep in touch with people, but at the core of it, I don’t think location plays a major factor.
Have you curated Comix exhibitions before? If so where and when? What was you experience like organising the show at Mailbox?
At the same time I was organising the Mailbox show, I was also organising an art show to coincide with the release of Happiness #4, which took place at the Silent Barn in Brooklyn on July 27th. It was a bit hectic, but everything came together ok! It was certainly interesting putting together the Mailbox show since it was entirely through email communication, because I couldn’t attend the gallery in person, and since most contributing artists weren’t even in New York. I wish I could have helped install with you all and see the finished exhibition in person, but alas, couldn’t quite afford the trip to Melbourne. You’ve all been great to work with though!
What’s next for Happiness? Anywhere we can buy a copy of the anthology in Australia?
The newest issue, #4, just came out, so I’m not quite thinking about the next issue yet. Happiness isn’t currently available at any comic shops in Australia, but if you can think of any that I ought to reach out to and work with, I’ll gladly take note! In the mean time, #4 and all back issues can be ordered from me online (thespithouse.storenvy.com). Thanks!
You can see more of Leah Wishnia’s work here