Real Comet Press Retrospective at Fantagraphics Bookstore


“From Comix to Critiques” was the focus of seminal Seattle publisher Real Comet Press. Founded in 1981 by arts activist Cathy Hillenbrand, then owner the Comet Tavern, this prescient enterprise published an amazing array of books that foreshadowed Seattle’s ascendance to the forefront of international pop culture. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery celebrates the legacy of Cathy Hillenbrand with “Real Comet Press: A Retrospective” opening Saturday, March 10, continuing through April 10, 2012. This exhibition features art, graphics and book works by regional artists nurtured by Real Comet Press including Lynda Barry, Michael Dougan, Art Chantry, and Ruth Hayes, among others.

As owner of the Comet Tavern in the late 70s, Hillenbrand became an advocate for Seattle’s avant garde artists. In 1980, Lynda Barry won a contest to design the Comet’s matchbook cover, beginning a long association with the young Capitol Hill cartoonist. A year later, Hillenbrand published the text to “Propagandists Lament,” a performance work by Seattle artist Annie Grosshans. She soon sold the tavern to devote full time to publishing. Real Comet Press went on to publish four books by Lynda Barry – Girls + Boys, Big Ideas, The Good Times Are Killing Me, and Naked Ladies, Naked Ladies, Naked Ladies – as well as East Texas by Michael Dougan, Instant Litter by Art Chantry, and a series of animated flipbooks by Ruth Hayes. In addition, Real Comet Press published catalogues, criticism, and feminist theory by artists, curators and critics such as Lucy Lippard, Jo Spence, Douglas Kahn, Rini Templeton, Ernst Friedrich, James Turrell, and countless others. Many of Hillenbrand’s books and memorable marketing materials were designed the brilliant graphic artists associated with The Rocket magazine.

Join us on Saturday, March 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM to fete the former publisher. Real Comet alumni Hayes, Dougan and Chantry will host the celebration, which includes an exhibition of art, books and ephemera from the Real Comet archives. A limited number of out-of-print Real Comet Press titles will be available for sale (including the iconic Lynda Barry poster “Poodle with a Mohawk”). This reception coincides with the colorful Georgetown Art Attack featuring arts presentations throughout the historic neighborhood.

On Saturday, March 24 at 6:00 PM Fantagraphics Bookstore presents Susan Kirtley, author of Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through the Looking Glass from University of Mississippi Press, in conversation with Cathy Hillenbrand. This enlightening discussion will be followed by an informal reception and book signing.

On Friday, March 30 at 6:00 PM, Hillenbrand joins cartoonists Ellen Forney and Jim Woodring, and Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds on the panel discussion “Northwest Noir: Seattle’s Legacy of Counterculture Comix” moderated by Fantagraphics Bookstore curator Larry Reid at Emerald City Comicon at the Washington State Convention Center.

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