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BIO

Ken Dahl is the name Gabby Schulz used to make it harder for his relatives to connect him to the comics he draws. Born in Honolulu, Gabby has spent most of his adult life in a dreary transit about the continental United States. In May of 2007 he completed a one-year Fellowship at the Center for Cartoon Studies, which turned him into a full-time cartoonist and thus literally ruined his life. He has spent the last couple of years burrowing further into the American Midwest, in preparation for settling into an obscure yet blandly respectable death. You can read his comics, listen to recordings from his radio show, and give him a little money for a bite to eat at www.gabbysplayhouse.com. Also he’s on twitter: @foodstampbeer.

IN THE EMPORIUM

Gabby’s comics can be found in the Secret Acres Emporium here.


IN PRAISE OF KEN DAHL

This is a Gordon Small comic and that means a laughing good time with a money-back guarantee! As the title suggests, Weather is a breezy, summery short tale about the effervescence of life itself. However fleeting, Gordon Small embraces life with all of its turbulence and small pleasures. Under cartoonist Gabby Schulz’ master hand, Gordon Small absorbs with wide-eyed wonder the ambient details that ultimately encourage us all to cling to this wonderful world by the tiny finger holds afforded to us!

As you can tell, I’m deeply moved by Weather’s joyful perspectives and optimism. A must-have for any fans of James Kochalka or John Porcellino.

- Darryl Ayo Brathwaite, Comix Cube

Monsters is possibly the funniest, most heartbreakingly honest herpes memoir ever committed to print. Dahl’s penwork is lyrical, at once detailed and light, never weighing down the humor—no easy feat. He’s brutally (and graphically) honest about the affliction without working the gross-out factor too much. (Though to be fair, it’s just oral herpes. C’mon, lightweight.) The laughter he inspires is the sort of groaning, been-there chuckle of anyone who’s ever felt like a leper, for any reason. All that, and he manages to anthropomorphize the disease into something… almost… cute.

- Print

Ken Dahl confronts his herpes affliction through comically grotesque drawings and tongue-tied dialogue with prospective dates in Monsters (Secret Acres, 208 pp., $18). The virus itself grows into a large blob that mutters, “I’m just another lifeform trying to survive in this weird, fucked-up world.”

- The Village Voice

The memoir of illness is a creative nonfiction staple that, optimally, marries the story of an interesting personality to information and counsel about a malady the reader or someone the reader knows may someday contract. Since sickness tends to be unattractive, such books are seldom clinically illustrated. Merging autobiographical comics and disease info, however, Dahl defies the genre’s visual reticence. And because the complaint in question is sexually transmitted herpes, there are other reasons for visual reticence. But alternative comics, at which Dahl is the dabbest of hands, have never seen a pudendum, whatever its condition, and blinked. So there are plenty of afflicted genitalia on view, also mouths (oral is as common as venereal herpes), and because they’re intended to underline Dahl’s craven fear (he commonly draws himself inside a giant herpes cell or morphing into one), they represent worst cases only. The information Dahl parcels out as he spills his misery—almost entirely psychological and unnecessary, though he spun it out for five years—is sound, and his self-flaying humor throughout is marvellously ludicrous.

- Booklist

This is definitely the most entertaining book you’ll ever read about herpes. Dahl (Welcome to the Dahl House) takes us on a harrowing but humorous journey from discovery through horror, denial, shame, guilt, and finally acceptance. Ken has no idea he may be infected—until he finds he has given herpes to his girlfriend. It feels like a death sentence: not only the end of this relationship, but any relationship. Things finally change for Ken when he opens up to a partner, actually gets tested, and receives some accurate information about herpes. Expressive and often explosive black-and-white art creates well-defined characters and brings Ken’s interior world to life (the monstrous talking sores that follow Ken around are particularly effective as his inner voice of doom and misery).

- Library Journal

In the end it is the end that sews up Monsters as a real aesthetic piece of work. There’s a decisive, encouraging conclusion that honors narrative convention and common sense. This is followed by two clinching toppers, an epilogue in which medical science has its final say, and another where Dahl demonstrates a humorous, hard-won, more substantive understanding of the world, micro and macro, with a crowning, profoundly human gesture.

- The Comics Journal

Monsters tells the story of a man’s ascension to the highest level of neurosis due to the socially crippling herpes virus. It explores the realities, fallacies, stigmatisms and mysteries of the disease with artwork both vulnerable and incredibly disturbing. Ken Dahl lends his talents to both narrative and education, teaching his reader as much about the herpes simplex as he does his own low self-image. Originally three mini-comics published by Dahl, Secret Acres collected has them along with the rest of the story – previously unpublished – and released it as one cohesive graphic novel. Overall, this book’s greatest accomplishment is creating a partially autobio comic that can be described as honest and revealing without a single pretense or eye-roll.

- DiTKO!

After reading Monsters and Welcome to the Dahl House earlier this year, Ken Dahl is fast becoming one of my favorite artists. While a non-fiction memoir about life with the herpes simplex virus seems well, icky, at first, (Monsters is) one of the most compelling books I’ve read all year, and certainly one of the best original graphic novels… I’ve ever read.

- Syndicate Product

Ever wondered what it would be like to have herpes? Dahl breaks all the misery down for you in an extremely funny, warm and relatable manner.

- Comic Book Resources

After Welcome To The Dahl House, (Monsters) confirmed Ken Dahl as one of the most original voices in contemporary comics. Just try to create a story about something as unsavoury as herpes and make it insightful, informative, moving and funny all at the same time! And nobody draws a virus like Ken.

- Forbidden Planet

Ken Dahl/Gabby Schulz’s semi-autobiographical graphic novel about herpes is a cautionary tale for, as Jeffrey Brown writes on the back cover, ‘anyone who has had sex, is going to have sex, or wants to have sex.’

- Drawn

Dahl is very much an original, who manages to walk the line between intense rendering and clear page design. His figures went from simplistic to naturalistic to cartoony, sometimes all on the same page. Monsters is a book that has a lot of narrative text, but it’s just in support of the intensity of the images on every page. Dahl either employs a funny drawing or grotesque drawing in nearly every panel, powerfully underlining the central theme of unearned alienation. It’s a tribute to his skill and sense of humor that this unrelenting intensity doesn’t become overwhelming to the reader…. Monsters is both a funny confessional story highlighting the mistakes of its protagonist and an attempt to open a dialogue, and it’s a rousing success on both counts.

- Rob Clough

It’s an improbable subject for a full-length graphic novel, but in Dahl’s hands Monsters is educational and deftly funny, a gentle reminder to keep things—even STDs—in perspective.

- The Portland Mercury

Sometimes reading a truly superior comic can either devastate you (me) by making you realize that you may never achieve something so perfect OR it can revitalize you and give you newfound resolve and energy. Anyhow, I highly HIGHLY recommend picking this one up. It’s a compelling story and even more compelling artwork.

- The Holy Yost

Dahl is as gifted an artist as he is a writer, and even with his cartooning style, he’s able to sneak in some education about the disease without it seeming like a lesson at all. You have to appreciate how forthright he is — let’s face it, not everybody would be up for drawing himself masturbating in the shower — and in letting down his guard, he laughs at himself so you can, too.

- Bookgasm

Monsters: A new Secret Acres collection of Ken Dahl’s frank, vivid, and energetically cartooned account of herpes – its composition, its spread and its effects on a man, and other people. I’ve read some of this in mini-comics form, and I was impressed by its visual ingenuity and strong sense of humor. Very much worth checking out.

- Jog

Drawn primarily in a 2×2 panel grid, Dahl brings the virus to life, literally, drawing its phantom manifestation to haunt Ken as it weighs on his mind more and more with each passing day. It’s a hallmark of Dahl’s art in Monsters, twisting the physicality of Ken as different emotions race through him. From a caved-in face as a divine figure crushes his face (after getting ripped a new one by an acquaintance), to transforming into a dog while lusting after a passerby, what could have come across as silly or cheesy instead gains an extra physical punch to the gut, with Dahl’s meticulous lines bringing out Ken’s feelings and emotions.

- The Holy Yost

Sometimes reading a truly superior comic can either devastate you (me) by making you realize that you may never achieve something so perfect OR it can revitalize you and give you newfound resolve and energy. Anyhow, I highly HIGHLY recommend picking this one up. It’s a compelling story and even more compelling artwork.

- Read About Comics

Who would have thought a comic about herpes could be so funny? Maybe those who are familiar with Ken Dahl would expect it, but those of us who haven’t read his prior work will probably be surprised at how he takes such a serious subject and wrings a great deal of humor out of it, while still educating readers about the disease and delving into the physical and psychological toll it takes on those affected by it. It’s definitely a testament to Dahl’s cartooning skill, as well as his fearlessness when depicting himself in a less-than-positive light.

- Warren Peace

It’s a difficult, punishing read, just as it was clearly a difficult, punishing experience for Dahl, but his evocation of pain, horror, and self-loathing is nonetheless masterful.

- The Onion AV Club

Given the nature of its subject matter, Monsters could easily turn into an unreadable self-pity party. But Dahl is too smart — and funny — (a) cartoonist (for) that. It’s that sense of humor, and even downright playfulness, that ultimately makes Monsters such a delightful, warm read. And that’s certainly something I never thought I’d say about a book about Herpes.

- Robot 6

Gabby (as Ken Dahl is also known, and neither is his real name) was born into this world, and then immediately ascended into the pantheon of comics gods with his very first comics. From the heavens above, he showers us with awesomeness. And comics. And semen.

– Matt Bernier

The second issue of the 2006 Ignatz Award-winning mini-comic about STDs and all their wonderful, mysterious horrors. This issue begins the story’s sudden and precipitous drop into genuine awfulness, as a virus drives its wedge between two perfectly normal and tragically ignorant young lovers: A must-read for anyone with genitalia.

– The Comics Journal

Ominously absorbing… …Exemplifies why they hand out Ignatzes.

– The Comics Journal

Everything is just on, so everything just flows… …Monsters is an incredible read.

– Indie Spinner Rack

Ken Dahl’s work runs the gamut from single-panel non-sequitur gags (“You’re Killing Me”) to fairly incisive political commentary (“Taken For a Ride”); his seemingly catchall anthology “NO” seems like a good place to start. Throughout, Dahl displays a fine eye for observation; perhaps the best piece is an evocative meditation on the transcendental pleasures to be had in swinging in a deserted park at night. The narrator, a garrulous bumpkin by the name of Gordon Smalls, reminds me of a few shockingly upbeat burn-outs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years, whose unwavering inner light somehow guides them over failures that would send me plummeting into despair. Dahl, on the other hand, always maintains an amusingly grim disposition; this strip ends with an icy “but so what” writ large in the night sky in response to Gordon’s poetic excesses, another climaxes with Gordon suddenly breaking into tears over a bowl of cereal and frozen bananas. Dahl is definitely following in the long shadow cast by that ultimate grim bastard Robert Crumb; and thankfully he has the intelligence and talent to pull it off. Dahl’s brand of anger and bitterness are an oddly pleasant alternative to the trend toward uber-sensitivity and navel-gazing to be found in so many “indy” comics these days, as he says himself “I am no Jeffery Brown”. Even a highly personal and amusing recollection of some of Dahl’s early sexual experiences maintains a level of authorial distance that only adds to the bizarre emotional quality of the piece.

– Francois Vigneault

10 Disturbingly Brilliant Graphic Novels:
Now, here’s a book that lends itself wholly to the form. Monsters is a semi-autobiographical story of Dahl’s experience after contracting herpes and letting it infect not only his body but his psyche. Half novel, half bizarro health class film strip, Dahl’s decidedly uncomfortable illustrations and brutally honest storytelling make this the best comic you’ll ever read about herpes. Or, maybe, anything.

- Emily Temple, Flavorwire

BACKTALK

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OFF THE WALL

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Secret Acres
October 10, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Secret Acres commented on their own link.

Secret Acres
Facebook IconOctober 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm

It's that time of year again! The Best American Comics 2014 edition is out there and there are plenty of folks, like the Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon and the Stranger's Paul Constant calling this book the best of the series so far. It's the first time out for new series editor, Bill Kartalopoulos, and it has a new format of sorts, devised by edition editor, Scott McCloud, of Understanding Comics and Zot fame. McCloud groups the main selections, making a map of the current comics landscape. Broader than previous installments, it includes specific instructions to read the entire book, rather than browse through it - and you should do just that. Our very own Theo Ellsworth's the Understanding Monster Book One is included in the section titled EVEN STRANGER ADVENTURES (of course), and there are FOUR Secret Acres artists in the BAC Notable Comics section: Eamon Espey's Songs of the Abyss, Edie Fake's story from Monster Vol. 1, Robert Sergel's Eschew 3 and Sar Shahar's Sequential Vacation 2. Not bad, huh? We've got Bill K's blog post below, but you'll want to sit and read this one cover to cover. Thanks, Bill and Scott for all your hard work and congratulations on putting a great anthology together!

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Bill Kartalopoulos | on-panel.com

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Contents and Notable Comics from The Best American Comics 2014, posted by Series Editor Bill Kartalopoulos

Secret Acres
Facebook IconSeptember 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm

And Theo Ellsworth's the Understanding Monster Book Two has its very first ever review, from RE:Views Media's Max Szyc! It's a rare thing that a review makes us laugh out loud, or LOL, as the kids say. If you've read the first book of the Understanding Monster, you'll understand that reading doesn't begin to describe the experience of this story. The logic of this world, like most psychedelics, takes a minute to kick in. Like Max says, "A few more pages and then I think my mind may have reached some sort of subconscious arrangement with the material, meaning I think I 'got it'. Perhaps the book is so futuristic that it actually has the psychic power to make me think I’m understanding it." Cue us giggling. It is a long, strange trip indeed for toy mouse-bodied Izadore and his consciousness, but the sheer force of Theo's art will move you along with him. You may even start to identify with him. You can thank Max for capturing these feelings so well by reading his review. Thanks, Max!

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The Understanding Monster – Book Two

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A review of Theo Ellsworth's "The Understanding Monster: Book Two."

Secret Acres
Facebook IconSeptember 17, 2014 at 2:15 pm

We survived yet another Small Press Expo. This is no mean feat. Between the thousand deep gang of exhibitors and the crush of so many attendees, it's a wonder we're still standing. Credit Corrinne Mucha for pulling us through. In the absence of Theo Ellsworth (DNP - Fatherhood), Mike Dawson (DNP - Bachelor Party) and Brendan Leach (DNP - Get well soon!), Corinne sketched out everybody's books. We mean everybody's. Even Sean Ford's books. And Sean was there. Secret Acres made bank, yes, but we hardly got to see anybody, or so it felt. This might explain how we escaped the con crud which is laying so many folks out after SPX. This year's show was really all about the Breeders, meaning the band, not folks making babies. Corinne, you see, had not heard of the Breeders. We can see not having heard of, say, U2. But the BREEDERS? COME ON. Also, fair warning, we don't dare dish on our SPX 2014 Celebrity Comics Mule, Tucker Stone. In fact, we're terrified of what he must be saying about us right now. Check out the blog, and you can also get some details on this Sunday's event, the Brooklyn Book Festival! It's going to be a star-studded affair at the Secret Acres-Koyama Press megatable...

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THE MOUTH of Tucker Stone damn near swallowed us whole on the ride down to this year’s Small Press Expo. We are hereby awarding him an Ignatz Brick for Outstanding Shit-Talking Comics Mule. Who knew Nobrow was so gangsta? We appreciate it, Tucker; you were the best consolation for us being down a ma…

Secret Acres
Facebook IconSeptember 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm

OKAY. Summer's over and we're heading back to school, or at least back to our Scuttlebutt blog. It's been a while and a half, but we've been busy, sitting by the pool, giggling, eating watermelon. Included in this post is a rundown of our trip to RIPE, our first ever internet kerfuffle, SPX news and switcheroos, and one rather ridiculous Secret Acres baby boom. Boy, oh, boy are we looking forward to SPX. We know we promised you the second volume of Theo Ellsworth's the Understanding Monster. The good news is that the book WILL be at the show and it will be beautifully sketched and signed. The bad news is that Theo is skipping out - but he'll be coming out to Comics Art Brooklyn to officially debut his new book. He has a a good reason (note the mention of a baby boom above). We do, however, have Sean Ford, Eamon Espey and Corinne Mucha coming to comics camp with us and they will armed with new minis, prints and even little paintings. Our guest comics mule for the road trip will be Tucker Stone, so we'lll have plenty of gossip to dish when we get back. You get yourself to SPX! See you this weekend...

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FIRST THINGS FIRST: Secret Acres had a grand old time at RIPE, the Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo, which really should be RIIPE, but who’s counting? Dave Nuss, smooth operator of Revival House Press was our celebrity comics mule and neighbor at the show. We would like him to be our neighbo…

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