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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
Facebook IconAugust 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

ZOMG! It's Tim O'Neil for the Onion AV Club on Corinne Mucha's Get Over It! and it's a pretty darn good review, too. Tim's clearly on top of his comics game, name-dropping and comparing Corinne to none other than Kate Beaton, John Allison and Dylan Horrocks - pretty much a Mt. Rushmore of the medium. He gets it right; Corinne hits every bump on Heartbreak Road, ever stage of grief, but all told, it's actually kind of... ...fun? As Tim puts it, she "turns a book about three years of anguish into a page-turner." There IS something fun about being heartbroken, and not just the rebound. It's like a license to crazy. At least we think so. There's lots of other good stuff reviewed here, too, including Rocket Raccoon's latest, Superman and Roman Muradov (love that guy). Corinne's got some good company for Get Over It! Thank you, Tim, and thanks, AV Club, for the very kind words. You guys go read now at the link!

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Anyone coming to Gilbert Hernandez’s work fresh in the year 2014 has a steep hill to climb. Never a lazy cartoonist, he has become especially prolific in the last decade, producing stand-alone graphic novels in a number of different genres for Drawn & Quarterly, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, and Ve

Secret Acres
August 1, 2014 at 3:41 pm

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Secret Acres
Facebook IconAugust 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm

We are outta here! Or at least will we be in the morning. Actually, the very early morning. Sigh. But we're going to the Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo aka RIPE! This is our first time at the show. It's also the first time FOR the show. RIPE is brand new and the brainchild of some folks we truly adore, like Mickey Z, who roped us into going way back when at the last Comic Arts Brooklyn. Yes, it is suspicious that there's a comic show in the dead of summer called RIPE. We've stopped showering and wiping for the occasion. Kidding. At our table will be Brendan Leach, of Iron Bound fame, and Sean Ford, he who has brought you Only Skin. Not only will Sean have the new and improved edition of Only Skin, he will have the fourth, yes, FOURTH issue of his new series, Shadow Hills. Playing the role of Secret Acres comics mule on the ride up will be Dave Nuss of Revival House Press, home of folks like Malachi Ward. It's a star-studded event and we don't even have to worry about crossing any borders! Doors are at noon and details are at the link below. If you're in Providence now, there's all kinds of stuff happening tonight, too. We will see you tomorrow...

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Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo Comics! Zines! Other forms of independent publishing!...

Secret Acres
Facebook IconJuly 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm

The thing about Mike Dawson's newest graphic novel, Angie Bongiolatti, is that it's daunting at first glance but kind of impossible not to identify with its characters. Well, you could somehow not identify with them, and that's your right, but you'd probably be completely insane. Rob Kirby, writing for the Comics Journal, writes about Angie Biongiolatti so well, that he might just be the ideal reader for this one. He's sensitive, empathetic, politically conscious and he likes to party. He also nails Angie, the character, who can come across as enigmatic or aloof, but it's her faith and her clarity, as Rob puts it (and we're paraphrasing), that make her the best barometer ever for the most difficult of times and the craziest of people. The key, though, is Rob writing that he knows these folks and he's partied with them. It would have been a lot easier for Mike if he'd had an agenda when he drew these people. Yeah, we might have recognized the ideas, but maybe we wouldn't have recognized these people. Poor Rob! He's one of THEM! Thanks, TCJ, and Rob, especially. This was a really good one.

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Angie Bongiolatti | The Comics Journal

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A varied group of twenty-somethings sort out political beliefs and interpersonal relationships in post 9/11 New York City.

Secret Acres
Facebook IconJuly 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Well, folks, Edie Fake has arrived! This newest LA native gets a very warm welcome indeed from Joshua Michael Demaree at the LA Review of Books. It's both a full-blown interview, a complete history and in depth review of Memory Palaces, Edie's latest and our first ever art book. If you're worried about Edie going Hollywod, go ahead and worry since Demaree has christened him a "flourishing celebrity." At least, he's a flourishing celebrity in the queer art world. There's some stuff in here that rarely gets discussed, including Edie's background as a video artist and the influence of that medium on his comics work. We even get a mention in the story of how we met Edie, which almost didn't happen. Plus, and this was news to us as well, Edie's return to Chicago (after "going feral") coincided with the death of Michael Jackson. But was it a coincidence? Thank you, Joshua, for all your super thoughtful work here (and for making another dream come true and writing up a Secret Acres book for the LA Review of Books). Go and read this very funny and very serious career retrospective right now!

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http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/fake-places-work-edie-fake

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Joshua Michael Demaree on the career of Edie Fake.

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