Joe Kessler is an art director. He runs London-based comics publisher Breakdown Press with Simon Hacking and Tom Oldham. He authored Breakdown’s first comic titled Windowpane, and since then has become a driving force by publishing the work of numerous illustrators and cartoonists, many of which we’ve championed on the site including; Antoine Cossé, Anna Haifisch, Zoë Taylor, and Richard Short.
Joe has previously said the Breakdown aesthetic can be split into quality of craft, vision and finding artists “who have the idea of the whole book in their heads”. With such keen eye, it seemed only right to ask Joe what’s made the cut on his personal bookshelf. With a plethora of beautiful comics, art books and prints, this week’s Bookshelf is an education in the experimental and influential comics artists we should all immediately pore over. Thanks Joe!
We (Breakdown) met Hayashi Seichii over an okay pizza and a pint of lager. He wore an irreproachable cream linen suit from which he flicked invisible specks before making gnomic pronouncements about music videos and anything else he fancied. It’s good to meet your heroes when they are Hayashi Seiichi.
These books, drawn in the 60s and 70s are uniformly brilliant. He also wore slim sunglasses, spoke through a translator, and might be my favourite living cartoonist. What an honour.
Howard Hodgkin, H.C. Westermann, R.B. Kitaj, and Joe Tilson: some books of prints
The contents of these books weren’t designed to be in books. They were made using specific colours to be seen at specific scales. I like seeing them all in books reduced to CMYK and one size. It’s good to see career-spanning collections of the same thing done many times. It’s a great pleasure to line similar things up and look at them, like on a bookshelf, or in a comic. There are many I could’ve picked but I referenced these many times in the last year or so: Howard Hodgkin, H.C. Westermann, R.B. Kitaj, and Joe Tilson. More often on my desk than my bookshelf.
Raw Books & Graphics
My holy grail when I was a snivelling illustration student. My parents had a few of these lying about when I was a kid. Extreme privilege. It was my introduction to Gary Panter, Mark Newgarden, Mark Beyer, Jerry Moriarty, King Terry and many more. They prepared me for a wider world of comics which doesn’t exist, or rather takes too much effort for most people to bother to find.
What a genius. The highest frequency of ideas per square inch and yet also often incredibly beautiful. I don’t understand.
I like making lists like this and frequently do so in my spare time. Top Massimo Matioli books? Top Milt Gross story? Best Tintin? Like some thinly imagined character from the comic shop sequel to High Fidelity. “The Complete Tadanori Yokoo” could be my ‘top book’. What an honour.
Tagawa made Norakuro. I went to the Norakuro Museum in Tokyo. It’s small, more a Norakuro corridor. They had some originals and his work desk set up, some colour guides and printed pages. At the end of the corridor some old people were having lunch. Eyes blinded by tears, I stumbled into the road and bought a Norakuro flag which now hangs above my bed. Tagawa was a wonderful cartoonist.
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.