Correction to This Article
In the June 11 Sunday Source, an interview with Dan Nadel misstated the name of Talbert's Ice & Beverage Service on River Road in Bethesda.
The Insider

Comic Book Guru

By Greg Zinman
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rock music and comic book ninjas: Welcome to the world of author-publisher Dan Nadel. The 29-year-old is a native of the District and won a Grammy last year for his work co-designing the packaging for Wilco's "A Ghost Is Born." He also teaches the history of illustration at the New School in New York and edits "The Ganzfeld," a compendium of avant-garde comics that has four editions to date. He also publishes coffee-table books by bands, fine artists and cartoonists through his "visual culture" company, PictureBox Inc.

In between doing all of that, he's managed to compile a book of his own: "Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969" (Abrams, $40), which unearths 29 barely known masters of the medium, reprinting their strips in full and analyzing their work and its impact. Nadel will sign copies of the book Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Big Planet Comics (4908 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-6856).

Last week we reached Nadel, who now lives in New York, where he was prepping a talk for the annual art festival at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art.

Tell us about getting into comics.

I just kind of fell into it. I grew up in Chevy Chase, and I remember going to Palisades pool in the summer. My parents would stop by Talbot's, a convenience store on River Road, to get me comics for the car ride. I was a huge superhero fan: I loved Captain America, the Avengers, X-Men, a pretty hardcore comics junkie, really. When I was older, I worked at Big Planet Comics in Bethesda for a couple of years.

And then you became interested in the avant-garde stuff?

It happened because Joel [Pollack] at Big Planet suggested that I read "Maus" when I was 12. He pushed it on me, and then my mom took me to see Art Spiegelman talk at the Bethesda Jewish Congregation. There were about 10 people there: This was pre-Pulitzer, you know. He talked about the history of comics, and he held up the cover of "Zap No. 1," and so now I knew about this guy [R.] Crumb.

I went out and found the volume of "American Splendor" that Crumb did the cover for, and I convinced my dad to buy me a couple issues of "Head Comix," which I was too young to buy -- he didn't know what was in them, but I did! Then I spent all of my bar mitzvah money mail-ordering underground comics, forging a signature that said I was 18, and fell in love with "Love and Rockets," "Eightball" and Harvey Pekar.

How did you end up in publishing?

I did a year of graduate school, studying philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and I decided I just didn't want to get a PhD, so I moved to New York to do research work for authors. I had this idea that I could just "do research," be some sort of professional student or something. A friend of my mom's knew Francois Mouly at Raw, so I ended up interning for Francois and Spiegelman, and they taught me a lot about books and the business of publishing.

I started "The Ganzfeld" with some friends, and I've kept it going, funded by grants from the NEA. The first book I did was "The Wilco Book" last year, and everything has kind of sped up from there.

Your books are more like art or design books than graphic novels -- pretty different from the standard presentation for comics.

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