We’ve written about Annie Koyama before: about the playful and innovative comics she publishes at Koyama Press, about her unusual entrance into the world of publishing, even about her quirky bookshelf. But we just can’t get enough. Her story is so inspiring that notable music magazine the FADER branched out from its usual subject matter to interview Koyama on April 29.
The article opens with the accurate claim that Koyama Press’s origin story “could easily be the plot of one of the poignant autobiographical comics it publishes”: Annie Koyama, whose background is in film production, started the press on a whim after undergoing major brain surgery for a terminal aneurysm in 2007. The life-saving surgery spurred Koyama to delve into something she felt truly passionate about, so she began funding Toronto artists’ comics, publishing them, and taking none of the profits in return. Her generous spirit allowed little-known cartoonists, who were frequently snubbed by larger publishers, the validation and exposure she felt they deserved. As the FADER puts it, “her commitment to taking risks on emerging artists reflected an ongoing paradigm shift affecting the way alternative comics are produced and consumed,” and as a result, Koyama Press has become “one of the most important forces in independent comics” around today.
Even though Koyama is currently living with a second, inoperable brain aneurysm, she continues to push forward with Koyama Press and remains committed to diversity. As she told the FADER, “we live in a multicultural society and we need more artists telling their stories well—from every background.” She laments that finding a vast audience for alternative comics is still “an uphill battle,” but some of the attention Koyama Press has gotten lately should help. The A.V. Club provided an exclusive preview of upcoming Koyama titles Gorgeous and What Is Obscenity?. Check out the previews here and here, respectively. Both books come out on May 10, and they’re just a few of the many wonderful things we know are in store for Annie Koyama and her press in the future.
Annie Koyama’s bookshelf. Photo credit: It’s Nice That
Have you ever wondered what books authors and publishers keep on their own bookshelves? You can take a peek into the private collection of Annie Koyama, founder and publisher of Koyama Press, thanks to the journal It’s Nice That. Annie Koyama invited Rebecca Fulleylove to take a look at her “illustration laden bookshelf,” and she talked about some of her favorite titles. Each title Annie picked from her shelf gives readers a glimpse into her personality and interests as a publisher. As Fulleylove said in the article, “with alternative comics, art books and a bit of trade fiction all featuring, Annie’s selection is as varied as the titles she publishes.”
The first title Annie pulled was Nog a Dod by Marc Bell, a Canadian anthology that introduced her to a variety of different artists when she just beginning in the world of comics. Annie then moved on to Elvis Road by Xavier Robel and Helge Reumann, one of her favorite books because of how it “feels like a stream of consciousness commentary on the state of the world.” From there, Annie turned to Klaus Biesenbach by Henry Darger, which she was drawn to because of the “combination of the beautiful and creepy [that] Darger’s work encapsulates.” Next, Annie talked about Gary Panter. Though Panter is best known for his character and set designs for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Annie calls his comics and paintings “amazing” and cites him as an inspiration for her and other artists because “he draws you into his worlds to explore at your own pace.” Last, but certainly not least, Annie gushed about her childhood favorite, Little Lulu by Marjorie Henderson Buell. First read on-loan from her sister, Annie talked about her fond memories of the title: “the colors seems bright and muted at the same time and that screen-tone effect was memorable. […] I could look at that cover for a long time.”
Founded in 2007, Koyama Press publishes “a diverse and eclectic range of titles,” a mission that is echoed on Annie’s personal bookshelves. The press continues to grow each year, and 2015 will be—according to the article— “their biggest output to date with 12 titles and a handful of mini-comics” in a wide range of styles and genres. Lose #7 by Michael DeForge, Black Rat by Cole Closser, and Wailed by Robin Nishio are just a few of the newest diverse titles from Koyama Press. After perusing Annie’s shelves, it’s obvious publishing innovative and electic titles is a project of passion and love.
Annie Koyama. Photo credit: Robin Nishio
Whether you’ve heard of Annie Koyama yet or not, you’re going to want to be her new best friend. She’s the mastermind behind Koyama Press, a small press from Toronto, Canada that produces comics and graphic novels. The awesome women at Lady Collective “pick the brains” of other fantastic women every Friday, and on August 21, 2015, they chatted with Annie Koyama about her life as a 20-something and how she found a career that fuels her passion.
In the interview, Koyama reflected on how her life changed throughout her twenties. She learned to move forward and not look back in the face of disappointment, become more independent, and pursue her passions to find the job that best suited her. Her life has been circuitous in terms of her careers, shifting from social worker to painter among other pursuits until landing a job at the National Film Board of Canada. It was here that she found a passion for film and started to think that she had found her place in the world. In 2007, she created Koyama Press, which works with artists all across the board in terms of experience to produce graphic novels, zines, and comics. While many individuals in their twenties feel anxiety towards finding the perfect job, relationship, etc., Koyama told the Lady Collective that “I’ve stumbled into virtually every job I’ve had in my life. My 20s was the decade where I tried out jobs in different professions allowing me to eliminate the ones that were not for me.” She took the same approach in her personal life, learning from her mistakes and moving forward.
Koyama is approachable and wise- characteristics that shine in the interview. Though there are many inspirational gems in the interview, this sums up her approach to life: “you should surround yourself with people who you believe to be smarter than you in as many disciplines as possible. You can’t help but learn from them.”