Sunday, December 27, 2020

Long Live Koyama Press!

 Robert Boyd

Annie Koyama is a Canadian woman who was involved in the Toronto art scene. Without knowing all that much about this part of Koyama's life, I have to assume that Toronto, like any other big city, has a vibrant art scene. A little more detail is available in this short oral history of Koyama Press published in Quill & Quire, a trade magazine for the Canadian publishing industry. Apparently Koyama Press was initially financed when Annie Koyama made a very good investment in the stock market, and was motivated by a health scare. I imagine her thinking, life could end at any second, so I better do something I really want with it. (I guess we should all be glad that her secret ambition wasn't to try heroin.)

She decided to bring this project to a close this year. Koyama Press lasted for 13 years, and she shut it down on her own terms (which is rare in the world of small press--they usually end because they are forced to end, as I personally know).

Anyway, there aren't many publishers that I think of as having a personality. I think the publishing industry is too corporate for that these days. But small presses are the exception, particularly if they are still run by their founder. While it is sad that Koyama Press is going away, it has always been down to Annie Koyama. The entire line of books reflects the taste and vision of one person. Raise a glass to the great Annie Koyama.

This is the logo for Koyama Press: "Kickass Annie"

I want to list a few of my favorite Koyama Press books.

I haven't written extensively about Eleanor Davis. I should have written about this book. You & A Bike & A Road is a diary comic about Davis's epic bike ride from Tuscon, Arizona to Jackson, Mississippi. She intended to go all the way to her home in Athens, Georgia, but she reached her limit earlier than hoped. She drew it as she traveled which gives the book a very immediate feeling. Her father built the bike for her, and this ride had to be the adventure of a lifetime. And her telling of the story is moving--all the people she meets on the way, the things she witnesses--some quite shocking. But one question is why even do this crazy thing?

I highly recommend this You & A Bike & A Road.

Another Koyama Press author I esteem is Jesse Jacobs. I reviewed two of his books, By This You Shall Know Him here and Crawl Space for the Comics Journal; both books are excellent. 

Julia Wertz's The Infinite Wait and Other Stories is simultaneously hilarious and painful. I wrote a brief review of it here, but you should search it out and read it for yourself.

But these are just a small part of Koyama Press's output. Annie Koyama published many other great books, most of which are still available for purchase. You can see them here. I've read about 35 of them, but there are actually quite a few I haven't read. Her standard of quality was high. I know she has been giving artists grants through her personal grant-making venture, Koyama Press Provides. But I believe that is meant to end when the press does. So I wonder what Annie Koyama is going to do next. Something personally satisfying, I suspect.

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