Ryan Tiszai and Simon Lazarus Vasta, both of whom tend bar at Capitol Hill patio-haven Captain Blacks, had been talking about putting together a zine for a while. Vasta is a writer who also works at Phoenix Comics & Games and who recently collaborated with Grace Hannah Lang on a book of densely drawn feminist fairy tales called BABELON. Tiszai is an enthusiast who has "put out zines before," he told me over the phone. One day they were reading the Stranger's pre-postmortem of Intruder, which folded last summer, when they came across contributing editor Marc Palm's promise to "teach anyone who [was] interested how to make a paper like Intruder."
Tiszai and Vasta inquired, and Palm kept his word. He hooked them up with Pacific Publishing, divulged all the details about costs and page dimensions, and has been "super helpful" ever since, according to Tiszai. Things seem to be going along pretty smoothly. They published a "proof of concept" issue for the last Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, released Issue 1 back in January, and plan to celebrate the release of the second issue at Fred Wildlife Refuge this Sunday, June 18.
Though the look and feel of Thick As Thieves closely resembles Intruder, Tiszai says they are making a few tweaks to the model. They still plan to solicit almost all of the contributors, they still plan to feature local artists (though people who move away are okay), but instead of running a co-op model where each contributor pays $50 to be in the paper, the editors are setting up a Patreon page where grateful readers (like you!) can kick in a few bucks.
Tiszai also says he aims for Thick As Thieves to be more inclusive of "women and folks that we may not know," but also of artists who aren't known for creating comics. Judging from what I've seen in the new issue, that kind of demographic and aesthetic inclusiveness is paying off. Painter/sculptor and notable window-display artist Noel Kat has a charming, delicately drawn, slice-of-millennial-life page that's so cluttered with highly indicative generational ephemera—LaCroix can on the desk, "The Future Is Female Ejaculate" mug nearby, emojis in the text box—that I want to stare at it for at least 20 minutes just to make sure I get all the visual jokes. Hannah Ruth Levi offers a high-res scan of one of her bright, fantastic abstract weavings. I cannot stress how much I like this woman's weavings. If I had money for weavings, I would buy one of them and hang it on the wall.
But it ain't all new blood. Intruder veteran Max Clotfelter has a characteristically funny, hairy, heavily crosshatched, Peter Bagge–like narrative comic called "Chasing Tail with Pappy," which is about that one time his dad made him cut off a raccoon tail. Marie Haushauer's "Papa Tried" is an expertly paced, 15-panel coming-of-age story that might be familiar to many people from this part of the Pacific Northwest. "Okay dad, I'm off to India. See you in three months. Here's my will just in case. Also, I'm a pantheist now," a young backpacked woman announces to her mustachioed dad in one panel. And Katie Wheeler contributes a wonderful sort of sage-burning gesture to get some of the dad smell out of the issue, with a coven of contemporary witches convening in the woods.
Above all else, with the exception of the possible annual edition, Tiszai pledges that the paper will remain free. Also: "I fucking hate ads," Tiszai said. "I think they look like garbage and they take up space. I'd rather get community funding than advertising from anybody."
To that end, the Thick As Thieves crew are throwing a not-to-be-missed party on Sunday, June 18, at Fred Wildlife Refuge in celebration of the new issue. In addition to showing work from the cartoonists, video artist Lauren Rodriguez will show some dreamy videos, thrashy band HHRRIISSTT promise to play an uncharacteristically ethereal and atmospheric set, prizes will be raffled off—but most importantly, there will be a Mario Kart 64 tournament. Though Tiszai tells me the tournament will be "very casual" and that "he's not trying to go nuts on this tournament," I can assure you all that, if I go, I will be spending most of my time ruthlessly dropping bananas all over Rainbow Road.